Fine Lines: Where Grace Ends and Incompetence Begins

“Where does grace end and incompetence begin?”

It’s been a while since we met at the intersection of Fine Lines (sometimes the Dear Abby of this blog).

Motivation for writing Fine Lines: Where Grace Ends and Incompetence Begins came when I received the following email:

“Nancy, I just read your blog about the BOZOs. I met a few this week and I’m having a tough time extending grace. Where does grace end and incompetence begin?

Seven little words. Yet when strung together in that order they have a way of making you stop and think. Frankly, I was glad to hear someone else voice a struggle with which I am quite familiar. How about you?

Fine Lines is focused on that thing called character. In this case of grace and incompetence, rubbing elbows with a variety of people can act like grades of sandpaper: from fine grit up to the coarsest one on the market. Whether or not it has an effect on the other person, it often has a cause and effect on us!

Some seem to draw grace like honey right out of us. Others are what I call EGR folks (extra grace required). And then there are ones whose seeming ineptitude, thoughtlessness, or outright lack of ability or effectiveness in a given area threatens to drive us to drink…and not from the fountain of grace.

Reflecting on how to answer my emailer’s question, my thoughts turned to various workplace situations I encountered over the years of my career prior to life coaching. I drafted the following questions as a result of my own mini-assessment as I thought back to not only those circumstances but life in general. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful in identifying the fine line between where grace ends and incompetence begins in your own life, work and community –

  1. In this situation, what is taking place that I am finding it difficult to extend grace? Who is involved? Is it the person(s) or the actions (or lack thereof) or a combination of both with which I am struggling?
  1. In this situation, am I seeing a repeated pattern with the same people and same actions or responses?
  1. In this situation, am I seeing a repeated pattern in myself – thoughts, speech, actions or responses?
  1. Can I pinpoint the elements at play in situations where I find it easier to extend grace? What are they?
  1. In this situation, do I want or feel deserving of control? Or, am I responsible for maintaining control?
  1. Am I being paid for my contribution (ie. workplace)? Am I a volunteer? Am I a family member? Am I a constituent? Am I a part of the family of God?
  1. In this situation, have I received and exercise the gift of having a voice? Or conversely, am I learning when, why and how to exercise restraint?
  1. How do I define incompetence? When I observe it (as in the case of my emailer’s bozos) can I distinguish between knowledge, experience, training, and motivation – and what is lacking in any or all of those areas?
  1. If I somewhat can, do I have something to offer that one(s)? Or, is it out of my reach or realm of jurisdiction?
  1. What options DO I have in fine line situations such as this? (Hint: think first before inserting foot).
  1. Can I recall times when others witnessed my own incompetence on my way to where I now am? Was grace extended to me? Did I receive it if it was extended or did I hold it at arm’s length without penetrating?
  1. How invested am I? Enough to learn to extend grace (which calls for growing in grace myself) in this particular situation or endeavor? Or, is it possible that a change may be forthcoming (which still calls for learning, growing and extending grace – to myself and others – if headed for a change of scenery)?

There are more questions that could be asked; perhaps you will be prompted by some of your own. You are welcome to share them here in the Share Your Thoughts / Comments section below!

Equally, there are no easy answers. But this I know: Holy Spirit is eager and available to teach us in the ways and use of grace, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of those we deem incompetent. He has at the ready grace upon grace to draw upon and a practical word of counsel when in doubt.

Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.
Proverbs 26:4

If you’d like to explore these questions more deeply, I welcome your contact.

Grace to us all. BOZOs included.

~ Nancy

Free Photo courtesy of Unsplash / Ales Krivec

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