Surrender to grace?
March 6, 2012 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Non-Christian interpretations of the saying/mantra "Surrender to Grace" - are there - if so, where? Can anyone tell me anything else about this phrase. As in depth and from as many angles and philosophies as possible.

I like the idea of the phrase, but the thought of grace meaning the fact that god grants us things even though we don't deserve it puts me off. I would like less religious and more spiritual - or any - interpretations of the word "grace" so I can view this in a different light. So, in non-christian religions - or spiritual but non-religious, OR just literary/history of the word type ways, are there any less depressing and disempowering (my views only here) definitions or explanations of the word "grace"?

PS - No offense, but please no clarifications on the Christian meaning of the word. Catholic school attendee here.
posted by jitterbug perfume to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
May I suggest "Go with the flow," or even just "Chill out"?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:58 AM on March 6, 2012

So basically you want to use the word without referring to God? But keep the basic meaning?

No can do. You don't really find other religions or philosophies talking about the concept much at all.

"Grace" has a few definitions, but the first two don't seem to make much sense in context, and the third and fourth seem to be derivations of the fifth, i.e. "mercy, clemency, pardon".
posted by valkyryn at 5:59 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, I have a totally non-religious upbringing, and though I understand the religious meaning of the word, when I say grace I mean that peaceful feeling when everything is just right, and I take a deep breath and feel it all throughout my body. It's just a feeling of peaceful acceptance of what is, an appreciation for it, and a sense of being a small part of a larger whole.
posted by rosa at 6:02 AM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

"Islam" means submission [to God]. In Islam, all things are from God and come through God. This means that Christianity and Judaism are not seperate "religions" from Islam, it's just that their adherents haven't submitted to God rather than trying to follow a human (and therefore corrupted) interpritation of God's word. As Allah is the Compassionate and the Forgiving (among many other things), it's not so much that we don't deserve the things God grants us.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:03 AM on March 6, 2012

The word "grace" has at least two basic meanings that may be helpful to you: first it means having a certain poise, a confident economy of motion, perhaps a sort of beauty -- none of these are necessarily physical attributes: a piece of writing may have grace in this manner; second, it means having an attitude of charity and good will toward those who lack such qualities. A beneficence or magnanimity. The juxtaposition of these meanings may help unlock the word.

I have known pagans and other spiritual sorts who see grace as a sort of animating force that makes beauty possible in the world (first meaning), at some cost to itself, and for the benefit of all of us crude beings in the world (second meaning). Maybe you can think of it that way.

(I should add that, as a Christian, such an animating force seems to me to be inextricably linked to the creative and redemptive aspects of God. That might be something I'm supplying, though.)
posted by gauche at 6:14 AM on March 6, 2012

Tat Tvam Asi a Sanskrit sentence, translated variously as "That thou art," "Thou art that," "You are that," or "That you are," is one of the Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements)

The meaning of this saying is that the Self - in its original, pure, primordial state - is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena.
posted by infini at 6:58 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

So basically you want to use the word without referring to God?

No, she wants to use it without referring to Jesus, as it says in the question.

It would help, OP, if you could explain a bit more why you find the notion of getting granted things that you don't deserve "depressing and disempowering," since I think lots of people (including non-Christians like me) don't respond to it that way. Without that information it's hard to know what would work better for you. For instance, this take on "surrender to grace" asks that you see yourself as floating in the ocean of all being, while recognizing that such floating is something that requires active attention and participation; in other words, it is not at all out of line with meditative traditions popular among American Buddhists. On the other hand, I don't get a sense from those guys that they spend a lot of time thinking about what people deserve, and in particular I don't think they see this kind of experience as restricted to people who deserve it, so maybe it doesn't work for you?
posted by escabeche at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
posted by teekat at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Throughout a 12 Step program participants are encouraged to connect with a "Higher Power." This ultimately works as a fixed abstraction upon which a person can direct their grief, hope, and etc. Although the program was based on The Oxford Group, a Christian organization, there is very little denomination associated with the contemporary version.
posted by uhom at 8:32 AM on March 6, 2012

My Anusara yoga teacher likes to talk about "opening to grace".

During class, this phrase could probably be glossed as: "Now that you're correctly positioned with your muscles charged, don't forget to relax the surface of your skin, smile (through gritted teeth, if need be), and make whatever micro-adjustments are necessary to experience the pose as not only hard work, but also beauty and meaning."

From her commentary at other times, I'm pretty sure it doesn't just mean "relax so you can look pretty!" -- rather, it's connected with what infini mentions. Keep your healthy distrust of the idea that you're some undeserving self needing something from some powerful force outside it. What's going on is more like the Zen idea that:

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realizes it is water. When we realize we are not separate, but a part of the huge ocean of everything, we become enlightened. We realize this through practice, and we remain awake and aware of this through more practice."

(Thich Nhat Hanh -- sorry I can't find a proper cite.)

Anusara yoga is kinda imploding due to corruption at the top, but you can probably find a current or ex-Anusara or Anusara-inspired teacher near you who'll discuss "opening to grace" as one of the first principles of alignment. There's probably Zen near you too -- or Theravadan groups are usually keen on Thich Nhat Hanh. In either case, I'd recommend embodied practice (asanas, zazen, kinhin, samu, etc.) rather than just words.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:07 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, again, am not asking for clarifications of the Christian meaning applied as I have seen it. Nor am I looking for a replacement. I am extremely attracted the this phrase but can't get past being told as a child that grace means god giving you something you don't deserve, and mercy means god NOT giving you something (something bad) you DO deserve. That's not cool. I love the idea of the surrender and the quality of grace, described very well by gauche, but can't get past this lingering feelings like I'm giving myself away if I use it, and I want to solve that w/ other viewpoints than what I've been taught.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 9:28 PM on March 6, 2012

How about grace as the realisation of the fabric of the universe? As a kid, I remember seeing a book cover of a beautiful intricate carpet with threads spinning out against a background of stars. It stuck in my head as a metaphor for the universe being so incredibly complex and beautiful - if you are on the carpet as one tiny dot in a giant pattern, you can't see the the pattern being woven, but you can trust that there is a pattern being created out of the joys and tragedies of your own life and others. So to "surrender to grace" could be accepting that there is a purpose, unknowable to you because you're inside your life, but that you trust has meaning and purpose. Up to you if there's God weaving the carpet or if the carpet is simply the universe forming. But to surrender is to acknowledge that you don't have control over anything but yourself and that grace is the pattern and rhythm of the world around you.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:21 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am extremely attracted the this phrase but can't get past being told as a child that grace means god giving you something you don't deserve, and mercy means god NOT giving you something (something bad) you DO deserve.

Maybe you want to sidestep this whole 'deserving' thing. It's not a universal way of thinking about morality. Sallie B. King argues in Engaged Buddhism that justice is not an appropriate concept for Buddhists: you do want to act skillfully and compassionately to reduce suffering, but that's not about punishment or reward (except as operant conditioning, e.g. there's a story about a monastery where the monks have been feeding the deer, so their teacher ties the deer up and beats it before letting it go, so that it will remember to be afraid of humans, who might be hunting it). In the Zen tradition, avoiding judgment is actually one of the ten precepts, and it's not because some god is better equipped than us to know who's a good or bad person; it's because those kinds of categorizations obstruct our experience of reality.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:46 PM on March 6, 2012

"Serenity now"?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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