The Notorious B.I.G. began his legendary ‘90s rap song “Big Poppa” with an appeal to “all the ladies in the place with style and grace.” Like all women in every party I have ever attended, when that first line dropped, I just knew it applied to me.
Years later, while I am still fairly confident in my assertion, maturity has challenged me to take a closer look. I now realize that while style can be easily proven, grace is a more complicated matter.
I grew up wanting to embody the type of grace I believe Biggie was referring to in his song. As a young girl stumbling around the house with my tiny feet slipping out of my mother’s pumps, I hoped to one day become a graceful woman –well-mannered, well spoken, and well put together – the type of woman who glides into a room.
That definition of grace is not incorrect; however, it only scratches the surface. With enough primping and practice, nearly anyone can learn to be graceful. However, as a grown woman now striding through life in heels that fit my own feet and personality, I have come to realize that it takes a willingness to dig deep within oneself in order to be gracious.
Graciousness extends beyond the way a woman carries herself and is a testament to who she is. A gracious woman is kind and courteous. She extends grace and mercy to others, regardless of whether it is deserved. She gives not only the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of second chances. She is open enough to offer both favor and forgiveness. She displays grace under fire. She manages to be cordial and respectful to even those she does not like. Whether or not a gracious woman catches eyes, she always leaves an impression on hearts.
It has taken a long time for me to reach the point in which I actually desired to be gracious. Who wants their kindness mistaken for weakness? And what is more frightening as a woman than appearing weak?
However, God has been challenging me to redefine strength using Him as my example. He, who so freely gives grace, demands that I not be stingy with mine. He, who consistently grants mercy, expects me to also be merciful. I, as a Christian, have to make a genuine effort to practice the compassion displayed by Christ.
God is also making it clear that, much like forgiveness, my grace is not always for other people. Being gracious to others gives me the permission and practice to be gracious with myself, the person who perhaps needs my grace the most. I have a habit of expecting too much from myself and giving too little; of hurting me, both in the things I say and do; and of dwelling on my mistakes and fixating on my flaws. I need to have grace for the faulty pieces of me that will never be perfect and for the unfinished parts that are still evolving into the woman I am called to be.
Grace is what separates girls from women. It differentiates pretty from beautiful. Becoming a woman of grace is not for the faint of heart. Yet it is worth it because grace is the beginning of love. And at our core, love, is who we all want to be.
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area.
A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.