How many times have you had someone tell you, “Just give yourself some grace?”

When they do, do you find yourself saying, “I know, I know,” then later thinking, “What does that phrase even mean?”

While counseling people, I find myself using all kinds of language that makes sense to me, but may not make sense to someone else.

“Give yourself some grace” is a phrase I have used in just about every meeting I have had over the past couple of weeks. I did not recognize this was an idea that needed clarification until I had someone ask me, “Practically, how do I do that?”

This got me thinking: What does it mean to have grace toward ourselves? Is my understanding of the word grace correct? How did God demonstrate grace?

We cannot begin to understand what it means to have grace toward ourselves until we understand what it means for God to have grace toward us.

In the Old Testament, the word used for grace is the word “favor.” We first see this word used in Genesis 6:8 when, amidst the wickedness of the world, Noah finds “favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

In the following verse, we read that “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 6:9 NLT). Finding favor in the Lord’s eyes is to gain approval, acceptance, special benefits or blessing, as we walk in fellowship with our Creator.

In the Greek New Testament, grace is defined as a gift or blessing brought to man by Christ—a gift we did nothing to deserve.

Grace is the favor of the Lord extended toward us.

Time and time again we take steps away from Him, creating a gap we cannot close on our own. For this reason, God sent Jesus to close the gap we created.

Grace is God leaning into us, our brokenness and all.

I visualize this idea as the posture I have toward the people I counsel. As they express what they feel, I lean into their emotion, full of compassion and curiosity. I don’t pull away. I do not just mentally lean in, I physically get closer to them, much like Jesus did as He entered humanity.

I love the picture of God leaning full-force into humanity in John 1.

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John continues to tell us in verses 16 and 17, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We now have a tangible expression of this gift of grace through Jesus.

As I began to process this idea of grace—the undeserved gift of the favor of God, extended to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus—I gained a new understanding of what it means to give myself grace.

Giving ourselves grace is leaning in, compassionately and curiously, to our emotions. I love how Alison Cook, author of the book “Boundaries for Your Soul,” phrases this. She writes that part of managing the overwhelming feelings we have is “befriending” them. We do not judge or condemn our emotions. Instead, we seek to understand them.

Jesus did this well. He came and dwelt among us and, knowing us intimately, still chose to call us “friend” (John 15:15).

So when you hear, “Give yourself some grace,” I hope you can choose to see yourself as Jesus did, with compassion. I hope you can lean into your emotions with curiosity. Finally, I hope you can befriend your emotions as you grow in understanding them.

Jenna is a Care Ministry resident in Southeast’s 215 Residency Program.