What It Means to Be Gracious

The gracious person is kind and tactful.

Posted Feb 11, 2014

Graciousness isn't high on the list of modern values. But it ought to be. 

The Three Graces of Greek and Roman mythology were sister goddesses who dispensed charm, good humor, and beauty. Also known as the Charities, they presided over several other pleasures of life, such as play and floral decorations. They brought happiness through refinement and gentleness.

In Judaism, grace is the spontaneous gift of affection, mercy, and compassion. In Christianity, those who have been blessed by God are said to have received God’s grace. In Chinese philosophy, when the heart feels empathy, in particular for the oppressed, a person has been touched by grace.

Gracious people are kind and their behavior is characterized by tact. Graciousness may be superficial, but sometimes what is on the surface is good enough.

A gracious person is a graceful person, someone who at least attempts to not hurt others’ feelings with clumsy words or thoughtless deeds. To live in grace is to walk lightly and leave the world blessed by your presence.

Here is a true story from India that illustrates the point of graciousness amongst adversaries:

Muhammad Jinnah and Mohandas Gandhi were political opponents who engaged in difficult emotional, intellectual and political arguments about the future of India on the verge of its independence from Great Britain. In an attempt to reach a shared vision on the future of the sub-continent, Gandhi invited Jinnah to his home on top of Malabar Hill in Mumbai.

One day, at the end of their talks, Jinnah mentioned that he was suffering from a rash on one of his feet.

Gandhi immediately asked Jinnah to remove his shoe and sock. Gandhi took his foot in his hands and said, “I know what will heal you. I shall send it tomorrow morning.”

Next day, a box of clay mixture arrived. For whatever reason, Jinnah didn’t use it. When they met that evening for more talks, Jinnah, not wanting to offend Gandhi, thanked him and told him that he had used the medicine and it had relieved the pain.