When what you need is some grace—and a push

by Kristin on September 26, 2013

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Huron Tours & Travel

I’m trying to find that fine line between giving myself grace and pushing myself.

I always can stand to give myself more grace—especially when it comes to letting go of my high expectations for everything from parenting and homemaking to blogging and exercising. Sometimes I just need a break.

Sometimes I need to curl up with a book and let my heart rate slow, rather than stretch out my muscles and get my heart racing.

Sometimes I need to walk away from the computer and let the swirling thoughts in my mind settle and steep, rather than frantically fish around hoping to catch something worthy of a blog post.

But there’s a difference between giving yourself grace and letting yourself slide into a stupor. Sometimes I just need a swift kick.

Sometimes, the most important time to get off the couch is when I least feel like it. And sometimes sitting down in front of an empty screen when you feel like you have nothing to say helps you dig deeper and mine new, surprising thoughts that have been hibernating in the dark recesses of your mind.

So it’s a dance I’ve been performing here for myself—the me that gives grace waltzing around the jig-dancing task master. As you can imagine, it isn’t the most coordinated choreography. The two motions feel so at odds with one another.

- – - – - -

Yesterday I took the time to go through my notes from last week’s STORY Chicago conference. Yes, I was in task master mode, pushing myself to find something—anything—to write a blog post about this week. And what I found was something in Matt Appling’s talk that brings together the act of giving myself grace and pushing myself.

Matt is an art teacher, pastor, and author. I don’t have direct quotes from his talk about creativity and faith, so I’ll paraphrase the part I want to share—the part about how important it is to let go of our egos. Here’s another way to put it: We need to stop worrying so much about the importance or success of every single thing we do and create.

I admit, I’m guilty of this, especially when it comes to blogging. If I don’t have a great idea and enough time to perfect it, I often don’t bother posting at all. Generally, I like going all out, whether I’m cooking a meal for guests, trying to frame out some meaningful family time, or shopping for a gift. Yes, part of that urge comes from a desire to take care in how I use my gifts and my time, and to treat special moments and people with the value they deserve. And yes, part of it is just about ego and pride.

What Matt said is this: When we make everything we do matter so much, it can get in the way of true creativity, AND it can shut others out. Struggling with something, in other words, is a stretching, creative experience for us personally. And when we struggle—when something doesn’t come easily, or we don’t have time to make it perfect—it gives us empathy. It helps us connect with others and provides an opening for others to connect with us, one imperfect human to another.

The imperfect me, after all, is so much more approachable than that other, not real version. This is the same conclusion I essentially came to a couple of years ago, when I blogged about why our imperfect, inconclusive, least-tidy posts, are often our most popular posts:

“…as writers, it’s quite possible that the more sure we are of ourselves, the less human we sound, even if the ideas are spot-on. It’s possible for something to be so good it’s bad.”

I’m sure if I thought about it for a while I could come up with all sorts of examples of how this is true in my life, beyond blogging. But I’m going to give myself some grace to not have every last detail worked out. I’m going to give myself a push to hit “publish” and finally get a post up this week. And I’m going to leave an opening for you to step in and let me know what you think about all of this.

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  • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

    I like that. So true. One of the photographer/artists I saw during that session said kind of the same thing. He had made this funky design and a company had put it on a jacket and a backpack, and was really ugly, lol. But he said ‘there’s a place for eyecandy, for non-depth in your work.’ I thought that was really freeing.

    • kt_writes

      So freeing! And I find that sometimes, even when it’s not about “eyecandy,” it’s good to just give something sort of risky and strange a try, to see what happens.

  • emmillerwrites

    “Give up on the idea that everything you do is important.”

    I found it in my notes. It was a huge challenge to me, too, because I’m a terrible perfectionist. I think everything I do is EPIC. And I don’t have a lot of grace for myself. You said it: It’s such a hard balance to strike.

    • emmillerwrites

      Also, yay for more (imperfect) posts!

    • kt_writes

      I should have known I could rely on a working reporter to have the REAL quote! Thanks! (My reporter days are nearly two decades behind me…)

  • Natalie Hart

    Don’t really have anything add other than a big, Oh yeah, regarding the struggle to find the line between grace and the necessary shove :-)

    • kt_writes

      Oh yeah. :) Do you find that at certain points in your life, depending on where you are emotionally (insecure, rebellious, etc.) that you have to either up the grace or up the shove? In some ways it’s all about compensating…

  • Pingback: How being whole-hearted helps you be creative

  • Erin

    I can relate to so much in this post. I’m always trying to find the balance between giving myself grace and letting myself be lazy. And your words about worrying about the success about everything you create are the words I (often) need to hear.

    • kt_writes

      Erin, I’m so glad this resonated with you! I think it’s one of those things we need to all help each other address, you know?

  • http://www.michaelhadley.org/ Michael Hadley

    Yes to all of the above. lol. It’s hard when you read, produce good content. But produce it faster and better and build up your kingdom…that sounds familiar. Thanks for the reminder to let myself off the hook, I needed it after the past few days.

    • kt_writes

      Yes, there’s a whole lot at play in this tricky balance, isn’t there? I’m glad you’re putting it in perspective and letting yourself off the hook. :)

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    I’m trying to find this balance too, and it is SO tricky. Thanks for this, friend.

    • kt_writes

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m glad I’m not alone in this…

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    Oh, this is good. I can tell I’ll be mulling it over for days.

    • kt_writes

      Good! Let me know if you come to any new insights we could all use!

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

    Well, I for one say you go girl. Oh, grace, why are you so easy to extend to others and so hard to extend to ourselves? I like to claim I am a staunch imperfectionist. I take things as far as I can and throw up my hands. At some point, we must walk away. Better to do it before we lose our spunk than after we want to throw something. (I have a little five minute talk I’m giving tomorrow, and while I’ve rehearsed it, I don’t want to sound like I’m reciting. So I am letting go of preconstructed sentences. Maybe I’ll even be MORE hilarious….) so glad to read you again. :)

    • kt_writes

      I’m with you about taking things as far as I can then throwing up my hands—especially when it comes to things like cleaning the kitchen. “Good enough” can be exactly the grace we need to give ourselves some evenings…

  • Joi

    I think anytime someone like you, whose thoughts, wisdom, creativity we admire and look forward to reading, reveals the fact that you simply cannot be an unending fountain of brilliance bubbling forth, you are extending true grace not only to yourself but esp. to your readers, who are comforted in this honest revelation that life is a struggle and often very draining and confusing for everyone. Life often feels like some kind of contest to see who can win the most admiration; and it’s so lovely when we experience a communication that in some fashion speaks humility, or says “the real me may not always live up to your expectations or mine.” It’s actually a gift, giving us permission to say the same thing.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for saying that, and for teaching me so much about this very lesson. I learned from you not because you always gave yourself as much grace as you should have, but because you openly struggled to learn how to be less hard on yourself.

  • RonSimkins

    As the number of delightful comments indicate, great challenge for all of us! Thanks. Why is it so difficult for us to acknowledge that all of life and all truth demands this dance between truths that are just too big to be contained on only one end of the constant teeter totter of life? Keep it up!