Accepting Mistakes with Grace

Photo by  HB Mertz

Photo by HB Mertz

At the start of my 100 Days of Grace project, no more than a few days into the new year, I received some very ungraceful news. In an early morning meeting that I expected to be about strategic planning, I was politely dismissed by my biggest and most respected client on account of my conduct.

As a new freelancer, this was a blow. This client and their work were my passion, my community, and my tribe. I felt like more than freelancer to them and they were like family to me. With a solemn expression and an evidently heavy heart, they explained to me that complaints were filed against me and that I no longer had a place in their organization. Just like that.

Unfortunately, this was not a complete surprise to me. Allow me to elaborate.

I have always been a woman of many words, and many of those words given freely and candidly to the degree of trust with my audience. I have also always been a woman of generous trust. Maturity and progress through my twenties has taught me that kindness and constructive criticism can exist together, but it is a delicate balance. A balance I have not yet achieved.

While it is never my intent to criticize, demean, belittle, disparage, disgrace, or offend with my commentary, I don’t always accurately gauge my tone or the reception by my audience. Frankly, this means that I say things that I intend to be objective, constructive, and even optimistic, but that come out as derogatory and unthoughtful.

This is the case of losing my favorite client and my favorite work.

Inside of this meeting, first thing in the morning, I know my face is beet red as the infractions against me are listed aloud. They aren’t read from a formal complaint form nor do they have names attached to them, but I cannot deny that the things that are claimed are not things I have said.

They were simply not meant to be said that way.

Grace, so far as I have learned, is afforded to us in many fashions. Physical grace in our gait and personal interactions. Emotional grace in managing ourselves and being present for others. Verbal grace in speaking with care and consideration of our audience and their ability to receive our message. I believe this is where I fell short.

What do you do when someone you respect and look up to is apologizing to you that “things didn’t work out” and thanking you for “all of your dedication and hard work”? How do you not fight back and instead respect their wishes while you feel as insignificant as a speck of dust? How do you pick yourself up and walk out of there without breaking down?

You do it with grace.

Five days into my exploration of the subject and all I could do while I sat and listened quietly to the end of our working relationship was repeat the word over and over in my head. A head which I held high.Because truthfully, if words recounted by others were enough to terminate a quality working relationship, then I have more work to do elsewhere. I messed up - and in reviewing the situation with said client, we both agreed that while the words may not have been meant in the context they were received, I most likely said them and meant them. Talk is not cheap to me.

What I’ve learned from this situation is not that I can’t take a critical look at my clients or my work. I have not learned to censor myself or try to become a mind-reader for my audience. What I will not do is stop asking constructive questions and letting my intent for growth and innovation drive me.

What I’ve learned is that no matter the situation, whether I’m starting a new relationship or looking over a mess I can’t clean up, grace will carry me through. Grace in my posture, in my sincerity, in my intention, and in my heart will guide me to learn and grow from any situation.

Thank you for joining me in my 100 Days of Grace new year project. To learn more, please check out the original post, detailing why 100-day projects are important.