“There but for the grace of God go I.”
I mean by that what I’ve always meant by that, even when I believed in God. “Boy, did I get lucky!”
I used to think that’s what everybody who said it meant.
Over time, I’ve learned that’s not the case.
For a lot of people it isn’t another way of saying “Phew!”
It isn’t a warning that luck is capricious and indifferent and has a way of running out. It isn’t a reminder to be merciful, tolerant, understanding, compassionate, and helpful to the unlucky.
It’s a way of saying “Aren’t I special?” and an excuse to add “And I guess that means God has decided you aren’t so I’m under no obligation to treat you as special. I can treat you just as God has treated you, as undeserving.”
For them it’s the Pharisee’s boastful prayer at the front of the temple: “Thank you, dear Lord, for not making me like them.”
via Lance Mannion
I think that one of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to think that you deserve what happens to you—either good or bad. That doesn’t mean to sit back passively and let things happen to you.
In any circumstances, a person of good character who keeps their word, does their job and learns all they can will do better than if they were dishonest, lazy and ignorant. But that doesn’t mean that honorable, hard-working and smart people will always succeed, and their opposites will always fail. These things affect the odds, they affect the odds a lot, but they do not determine the outcome.
Looking at my own life and at people I know, I see people who are more talented and more self-disciplined that I was who are struggling just to get by. I never had to do that. This is not something I feel guilty about. I don’t feel I’ve done anything to be ashamed of. I merely recognize facts.
Part of my luck is having been born in the United States of America, rather than in a poor country; in the year 1936, rather than 30 years sooner or later; and with a white skin. But I also am lucky in having made mistakes in my work, in my life choices and in my relationships with people that could have spoiled my career or my life, but didn’t.
When I worked for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, I once wrote a feature article about a man who had a successful contracting business. He was healthy and active, and loved the out of doors. One day he felt a stinging sensation in his legs and back, and blacked out. He regained consciousness months later in a hospital. He was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of being bitten by fire ants!
When I interviewed him, he was working for a department in the City of Rochester, holding a pencil-sized stick on his mouth and using it to operate a computer. Thanks to New York state’s vocational rehabilitation services, he was able to hold a job and earn a salary, but nobody could give him the use of his arms and legs back. Things like this could happen to you, to me or to anyone. Disabled people speak of the “temporarily abled” and there is truth in that expression.
My thoughts on this subject were inspired by a blogger named Lance Mannion. Click on The Grace of God to read his whole post. It’s worth reading.
Then click on Even when you do everything right, life happens for another story which made me think, there but for the grace of God go I.