Experience is overrated: amazing liberating grace

Grace is the experience of being delivered from experience.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther’s doctrinal affirmation of salvation by faith through God’s grace comprised the bedrock of Protestantism to this day. The above lesser known quote attributed to Martin Luther offers us food for thought about grace on a more personal day-to-day level.

Why does experience—our precious life experience—need to be delivered, rescued, liberated?

Life experiences can be good or bad, and together with our genetic makeup render each of us unique individuals. Like navigators in our life journey, experience helps us sidestep life’s sandbars and icebergs. From our successes and failures, we learn what makes us tick and what or who ticks us off. Through experience, we learn who we work with best to tackle a difficult project, who we enjoy interacting most in a social context, etc.

Without any question, experience brings expedience, performance, and social well-being to the table. On the other hand, experience has a tendency to lock us into a certain mentality and way of doing things. The more experience we have, viz. the older we become, the more prone we are to live life in our sequestered comfort zone where new intimacies, new technologies, new methodologies, and new ideologies cannot set foot in.

Past successes and failures have conditioned us to respond in a certain way in future similar situations. If we are putting together a team, who do we invite? Most tend to seek out people who worked well with them before, and failing that, new people who fit that same mold—gender-, personality-, appearance-, and skill-set-wise.

The aforementioned approach limits team diversity and stifles innovation. Well-qualified people may be excluded because they don’t match the profile. For people who have made a mistake in the past, we feel that we can ill afford to give them a second chance.

I believe most people, deep down, want to be graceful, not grumpy, toward others. Good intentions alone, however, are not sufficient to make one a graceful person. Being graceful is better learned by example.

When I look back on my life journey, I can see that other individuals have contributed to my successes in some way, by giving me the chance, by being supportive, etc. There were also special people, ‘angels’, who gave me a second and third chance after I made a mistake, whether I deserved it or not.

When we acknowledge the grace bestowed on us, we are more ready to be graceful to others. Grace frees us from past baggage, good or bad, to welcome new ideas, new relationships, new challenges…

Amazing grace.