Shame And Grace Part 17 - The License To Live

Jul 23

Shame And Grace Part 17 - The License To Live

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 19:59 — Thabo Mokete

In the moment when we accept the acceptance, it is the birth of something new. For anyone who still has the idea that grace is a license to carry on with business as usual, there is quite a surprise waiting.

In the first place, is the usual business of “sin” really so profitable that we should prefer it? Do people really carry on with evil because they like it better than the good?

Paul the apostle already unlocked this question way before we had psychology or biology. He said:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.... For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.1

It follows then that sin is a condition in human beings that contradicts known ideals2 (the law); the 'principle of sin'.3

In his book The Shaking of The Foundations, Paul Tillich wrote about sin being a “power that directs our will against itself”;4 The “estrangement of the human spirit from the divine Spirit.”4 The human being separated from true self, from life.

This has come to be known today as the human condition,2 of which Biologist Jeremy Griffith wrote in great detail.
And to be aware of the disconnection is by default to be upset. A hostility which shows itself in the breaking of laws of life, turning away from known ideals. Throwing tantrums.

Thus the problem of existence is not sins, (the actions) but sin. Sin is singular, for it is a state of being.4 Being separated, alienated.

Imagine that we observe a person who seems to be enjoying peaches in a garden. On coming closer we notice that he is upset. He shakes the tree branches wildly and peaches fall off. He takes only a single bite on the ripe peaches and throws them all over the ground.  He even eats the raw ones, tries to crunch on the pits,  breaking a tooth in the process. He says to himself, “Ah! What a blast!”. On waking up the next morning, he looks at the mess he has made, feels the upset stomach, a headache and a broken tooth. He says “What have I done? But what is wrong with me?”

He then realizes that he has in fact violated himself. He now feels the split even more than before; the emptiness of having used himself for no gain, and the brokenness of great loss.

The cycle keeps repeating itself. It is a downward spiral, for sin is progressive, never simply constant.  It is a gradual loss of one's personal assets, especially the intangible ones! Energy that is meant for creating an abundance joy and growth is drained away into dark nothingness. The soul is separated from its own creative Light.

The will collapses: Impulse comes into conflict with reason, reason works against feelings, feelings stand in the way of intuition. The conscious is in bitter struggle with the unconscious.5 The whole being works out of harmony.

Outwardly, the separation is expressed by hostility towards others. Man disconnected from woman. Segregation and hatred between races, nations, tribes and religions. The human being hostile to God, standing in dis-relation with the rest of nature.

Sin persists and ultimately destroys. Thank God for grace persists even more!6 Grace then is what meets us along this downward spiral. Some of us have to be found near rock bottom. At that moment when you think that it is all over, Something breathes life in the midst of the separation.

This acceptance breaks through our ordinary existence. It comes with the power of understanding that calms the nerves. The human spirit rises up from under the rubble of anger, upset, guilt, insecurity and shame. The soul can now go free and start breathing.

We find a compassion that we could not have been able to give to ourselves. There is a peace that unlocks the upset and causes hostilities to cease. It brings a new love for life in spite of failure and loss.

One woman, Byron Katie, tells how "something" broke through her ordinary life. This after she had spiraled down over years to her last shred of self esteem. She says:

"All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me, my whole world, the whole world, was gone. At the same time, laughter welled up from the depths and just poured out. Everything was unrecognizable. It was as if something else had woken up. It opened its eyes. It was looking through Katie's eyes. And it was so delighted! It was intoxicated with joy. There was nothing separate, nothing unacceptable to it; everything was its very own self."7

In spite of the separation and disconnection that is apparent everywhere, grace is a creative enterprise that rebuilds, reunites and re-integrates upwardly into love.
Paul Tillich wrote so beautifully, describing a moment of acceptance, we can share a few words of that presentation here:
"We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen.

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: "You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!" If that happens to us, we experience grace.

After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement...”4

Nothing else matters in the moment of the encounter with grace, but simply to accept the acceptance offered. To absorb it with one's entire being.

Paul Tillich goes on to say:
We experience the grace which is able to overcome the tragic separation of the sexes, of the generations, of the nations, of the races, and even the utter strangeness between man and nature. Sometimes grace appears in all these separations to reunite us with those to whom we belong. For life belong to life."4

It is like acquiring a sixth sense, seeing what has been there all along but hidden by the old state of things, the upset ego. It is a new world unfolding, revealing more and more of reality as the days go by. A whole new way of looking at life.

In the Bible, especially the Gospels we find stories of those who were touched by grace. Their lives were all transformed: Jacob, by the Jabbok river, Mary the Magdalene, the Samaritan woman by the well, Saul of Tarsus, who had been death broker, Zaccheus the tax collector, the list can go on. They now wanted something different from what they had before.

So grace makes the difference between merely existing and living. It is the license to start living in the newness of life that has appeared. To start climbing up the ladder, one step at a time. In place of being upset, to live the joy, gratitude and connectedness to all of life.


1. Romans 7:15-20
2. Griffith, Jeremy. A Species In Denial. Sydney: FHA Publishing and Communications Pty Ltd, 2003.
3. Roman 7:25
4. Tillich, Paul. The Shaking Of The Foundations. New York: Charles Scribnerís Sons , 1955.
5. Assaglioli, Roberto. The Act Of Will. Dallas: Penguin Books, 1973.
6. Romans 5:20
7. Katie, Byron; Mitchell, Stephen (2008-12-26). Loving What Is. Random House UK. Kindle Edition.