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Francis Su’s lecture “The Lessons of Grace in Teaching” is in my core curriculum, the writings I reread several times a year. It reminds me that everyone deserves to be known as a person beyond what they can achieve.

And everyone includes me.

When I treat myself instrumentally, when I feel low because I worry about letting others down, worry that I’m not getting enough down, those are the times I’m most likely to only see other people in relation to tasks and goals, rather than other conscious beings with fundamental dignity.

Whatever ethical commitments I choose towards others, I have to also hold towards myself.

Francis Su defines grace as having a fundamental good regard for others, just because they are human.

Your accomplishments are NOT what make you a worthy human being. You learn this lesson when someone shows you GRACE: good things you didn’t earn or deserve, but you’re getting them anyway.

There are specific contexts in which showing others grace is an essential habit of mind. Su believes teaching is one:

Grace is precisely what makes hard conversations possible, and productive, between people. But you have to extend the grace first.

I’m a leader at work. Like in teaching, that requires extending grace to those coworkers who depend on me. But I need to show grace to myself, because in those situations where I hold power over others (with my children, with the coworkers I lead) their needs come first.

How many abuse as of power derive from someone who cannot meet their own need for dignity in anyway and so abuse others to try and fill that vacuum?