Why Grace Starts in Our Families
by Jonathon M. Seidl
It had been boiling below the surface for weeks. I could feel it rising.
I was facing mounting pressure as I prepared for the release of my first book, Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life. Couple that with some pressure at work, and it was the perfect storm.
And then, on a Friday, it exploded.
I began pacing. My heart started racing. My chest started tightening. My stomach was in my throat. It felt like I was standing on a cliff, looking down into a mile-deep cavern unsure if I was going to fall, and that at any second I could.
I was having a panic attack.
The attack would last most of the day. By the night, I had found my way to an early bedtime, around 6 p.m. The following day, my wife did something incredible: she took the kids to her mom’s house so I could spend the day recuperating. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know they can be exhausting, and the effects can linger. So I spent the day fixing my old truck, since working with my hands has a way of calming my mind.
But this isn’t a piece about Friday and Saturday. This is a piece about Sunday. That’s the day I was reminded how much my disorder affects others. And it’s also the day I was reminded of the importance of, and need for, grace within a family.
When my alarm went off on Sunday morning, my wife was excited to move past the difficulty of the last two days. She immediately started trying to make plans.
Want to go to brunch after church?
What if we go to the beach?
Should we go to the pool?
How about we go to the store together?
None of that sounded enticing. I was still exhausted and was content to stay at home all day. But in my wife’s mind, she and our two kids had lost me for the last two days. She wanted her husband back, and they wanted their daddy back too.
As she continued pushing, I began shutting down. Disengaging. Dismissing. Dodging. Eventually, it came to head. Her frustration with my lack of interest led to an argument. That argument led to some hurtful words on both our parts. Before we knew it, we were in a full-blown fight, exchanging verbal barbs and seeing who could make the other feel worse like children on a playground.
Once our tempers cooled and the dust settled, we debriefed. We excused ourselves to the bedroom, locked the door, and refused to leave until we worked it out. Here’s what became clear: this could have been avoided if we had given each other more grace.
What do I mean? For starters, my wife admitted she needed to give me a little more grace as I came out of my anxious episode. While she wanted things to get back to “normal” as soon as possible, the truth is it can take some time for my body and mind to get there. Even though she doesn’t completely understand that, it’s still something she needs to continually seek to do.
On my end, I needed to give her more grace as she navigated how to support me while simultaneously pushing me to not steep in self-pity. I’ve said this in my book, but it’s worth repeating here: anxiety can be inherently self-focused. Those of us who suffer tend to, especially when we’re at our worst, only think about our own pain, our own needs, and our own desires. We need, then, those around us to help us see beyond ourselves. But we also need space.
Knowing the line between pushing and supporting is not an easy task. I need to recognize that. I also need to understand that my anxiety disorder (which also manifests in obsessive compulsive disorder) can be exhausting not just for myself but for those I love. In this case, my wife was essentially a single mother for two days. That’s tough.
Someone once told me that if you think you are only 1% to blame for something in an argument, you still need to own 100% of that 1%. You know what that is? That’s humility, and humility is filled with grace. If we had been more humble and more grace-filled, our Sunday would have been a lot different.
And isn’t that really true in a lot of areas? I think a lot of arguments, a lot of family conflict, could be resolved or simply avoided if we committed to extending more grace. We live in an era where grace is a rarity. We even feel entitled to not extend grace. We want to cancel anything or anyone that messes up. And we feel a sort of righteousness by holding people to an impossible standard: that they should never mess up.
And yet that’s the opposite of the gospel. Jesus extended grace on the regular. (Remember the woman at the well?) In fact, He reserved some of His harshest words for those who refused to do so. That should tell us something.
I think there are a lot of people who are not just fed up with but scared of cancel culture. They want to see it changed. Here’s the thing: Many times cultural change starts in our families. I believe, then, that if we embrace grace more in our homes, culture can’t help but be affected.
Show grace, give grace, and then I think you’ll experience more grace. We all will. And that’s exactly what we need right now.
Jonathon M. Seidl is the founder and president of The Veritas Creative, a digital media consulting and content creation firm. For over a decade he has been telling stories. In fact, he’s written over 6,000 of them, first after helping start a top-50 news site, then as the editor-in-chief of the popular non-profit I Am Second, and recently creating and overseeing Kirk Cameron’s media venture, The Courage. Seidl’s passion is to help people with mental health struggles, while also sharing what he’s learned telling stories for—and working with—some of media’s biggest names and organizations, including Glenn Beck, Kirk Cameron, and Chip and Joanna Gaines. He graduated with a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from The King’s College in New York City and currently resides in Dallas, TX, with his wife and two children. More information about Jon can be found at jonseidl.com.
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