What Cheap Grace May Be Costing Your Organization

This is a guest post by Mary DeMuth. She is an author, speaker and book mentor. She has published ten books, including her most recent, 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Grace. It seems we’ve taken the marrow out of the word. We’ve Americanized it to mean that we can do anything we darn well please, invoke the grace card, and smile our way through our transgressions.

The Grace Card - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/krystiannawrocki, Image #15418972

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/krystiannawrocki

Why is it that we applaud Jesus offering grace to folks, but we miss how He threw a holy-hissy-fit in the temple, turning over tables? That’s not gracious—certainly not conciliatory. What kind of tyrannical boss would do that?

But what if grace is invoked to such an extent that innocents in the workplace (or even customers) are harmed? What if we extend so much grace to co-workers that they’re enabled to keep offending? Is that grace?

Once I poured my heart out to someone in leadership about an abusive tendency I saw in a coworker. My hope in doing so was to find some help for this person, but mostly, to be honest. I wanted to see the person removed from the situation so others wouldn’t be harmed.

The response from the leader? “This is part of the work, walking alongside them. Don’t give up.” In other words, offer “grace” and don’t confront. Let it keep happening to keep the peace.

I still get a stomachache thinking about that advice. Part of the work is to tolerate abusive co-workers? What about calling someone out on poor behavior? What kind of “grace” allows this behavior?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls it cheap grace:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves . . . the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”

As leaders, we are entrusted with people’s lives. We influence them by our example and our behavior. What does it say about us if we prefer our own likability to doing what is right? Why do we tend to gloss over deficiencies in someone’s behavior without pointing out what is offensive?

When we operate with cheap grace, it has five leadership consequences:

  1. We send the message that getting a task done is more important than integrity.
  2. We provide an unsafe or hostile work environment to those who are directly affected by the offender.
  3. We show our weakness and inability to confront, diminishing our credibility.
  4. We jeopardize morale.
  5. We give permission for others to be lax in workplace standards.

When we exercise costly grace, it also has five leadership consequences:

  1. People know exactly where we stand.
  2. Those who are victimized feel safe and protected.
  3. While it may be chaotic and painful to confront a co-worker strategically (and kindly), in the long run, we eliminate heartache.
  4. Breaking the peace of the status quo of today is our investment in the future health of our organization.
  5. We can look ourself in the mirror.

Cheap grace—the kind that allows for bad behavior to flourish unnoticed—is more expensive than you might think. It costs you, your employees, and your relationships. May it be that we dare to lovingly confront, hoping for confession and reconciliation as we do so.

Questions: Think now about a person in your organization who is continuing to violate your standards or hurt others. What holds you back from bringing his or her issues to light? What does it mean to you today to exercise costly grace? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    The grace that God offers us was incredibly costly to Jesus. Why would we expect to have to offer anything less to others? We are, after all, FOLLOWERS of Jesus, and a follower usually does what the leader does.

    I have been in situations (and am currently in one) where I had to offer costly grace. It is hard. But it is right. My hope is that one day the person to whom I had to offer this costly grace will see that the stand I took was for character and integrity.

    Great post!

    • Anonymous

      Valuable point about being followers. So true. So hard to live.

    • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

      Grace is always costly to the person offering it. Thank you for reminding us!

  • Anonymous

    Michael, I’m more concerned about my team as a whole to allow one member disrupt the unity and strength of the whole. I think it’s much more “graceful” to let a person go, to protect the whole.

    I the end, the “bad apple” wins, they get to go to another place, hopefully one that is a better fit, and the team wins because they don’t have to feel wounded or a need to walk on egg shells

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with this. I have had so many situations where I have let someone go, and they have later returned to thank me. It was the nudge they need to do what they were truly called to do.

      • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

        My dad is the owner of his own business, and he has had to let some people go… never out of choice though. He just kknew it was the best thing for the business. Although it hurt for awhile, the individuals thanked him for it, and our families are now close friends. That’s grace!

      • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

        My dad is the owner of his own business, and he has had to let some people go… never out of choice though. He just kknew it was the best thing for the business. Although it hurt for awhile, the individuals thanked him for it, and our families are now close friends. That’s grace!

    • Anonymous

      I love that you’re primary concern is for everyone.

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      Great point, we often overlook the team and then everyone loses.

    • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

      Yes, sir: “Words from a friend may hurt, but an enemy multiplies kisses” Prov 27:6. I think not telling them is really hurting them.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    I guess the main problem in these situations is perspective–what is cheap grace to one person may be wisdom to another. When I am involved in “abusive” situations, I pray for God’s wisdom and for the ability to manifest God’s absolute love in those situations (really, I pray that for everything). These prayers focus on God’s ability to work good in all circumstances.

    By the way, God’s grace leads us to the baptism of fire. His judgments are truth and truth set us free. He works with each of us to help us understand the deceptions, the losses, the death, and the destruction that the kingdom (or push) of evil is bringing against us. When God deals with us, His grace enables us to manifest the power of what Christ accomplished on the cross and to defeat the purposes of the kingdom of evil. That is the good news of the gospel!

    • Anonymous

      Good point about perspective. What’s required of us is to discern and act.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Mary! Thanks for your thoughts. I could relate what you say since I have personally experienced such situations in my life.

    When we talk of grace, Apostle Paul writes about it clearly in the book of Romans. In Romans6:1-2, he tells “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”
    Again in Romans6:15, he reiterates, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means.”

    So, it is evident that grace should not be used as a license to sin. But, when a co-worker violates, there comes the problem. That co-worker can be your subordinate, peer or supervisor. In case, if he is your subordinate, it will easy to confront and set right the tone. On the other hand, if he is your peer or supervisor, confronting him will require grit and discretion from your end.

    Again confronting and being assertive comes with its own cost.
    In Indian culture, confronters are not considered as a good team player or a cordial person. We may be termed as rebellious in nature.
    We may be labeled as pupils who fail to practice Christian principles.

    Therefore, in my cultural context, it is always better to leave the system rather than confront the default or the problem.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Uma, great verses you pulled out there! Grace doesn’t give us free reign to do anything our heart pleases. It gives us a covering in case we screw up while loving God, but not to continue sinning once we’ve realized what we’ve done.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Joe! It is true that the Bible is very elaborate and clear in enumerating about the subject of grace to its readers.

    • Anonymous

      I love that you’re considering this from your cultural perspective.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Mary! Many times I learn new ideas from the words of people sharing about other cultural perspectives.

    • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

      Uma, there are ways to deal with it which are less confrontational. Understanding the confrontation is coming from the bully, not the victim. In order to handle it from a peer or a supervisor, the first order of business is to document everything, every accusation and every false statement. Never become emotional. Understand it is all about power, control and manipulation. After documenting numerous incidents, write a letter to the person with each incident documented, without any anger or emotional words; just deal with the facts. Then tell the person to stop doing those things. The first letter does not need to be copied to the person’s boss.

      Because it is all about power and manipulation, it won’t stop with the first letter. Keep documenting the incidents. (Three or more incidents indicate a pattern of behavior.) Then write another letter to the person and copy that letter to his/her boss. The next incident that happens you can then say out loud, “Stop it. I have asked you in writing to stop this kind of behavior toward me. This now constitutes harassment, and there are laws against that kind of behavior.” This kind of reaction usually stumps the bully in the workplace.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Gina! I get your point. It takes creativity to deal people who abuse others. I agree that confrontation is not the only way but there are several other ways to tackle such abusive behavior.

        • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

          I agree, Uma … I didn’t mean to sound preachy. I’ve lived through it and have studied that kind of behavior for about ten years now. I’m passionate about getting the word out.

          • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

            It’s okay Gina! I did not find that preachy or sermonizing. I love always creative ideas. I am thankful to you for these ideas.

  • Timothy Fish

    I realize that the Bible was talking about the church rather than the business world, but I believe our first responsibility in these types of situations is to discuss our concerns with the person rather than going and telling the boss. So often in a work environment, people are so quick to gossip about the faults of another person when the best thing would be for them to just learn to get along. A boss must balance that fact with his responsibility to check up on all complaints he receives. I think the best response a boss can give when someone comes to him with something like this is to say, “I’ll look into it.” Though there is a tendency to tell the person to try to get along with the other person while the boss knows he is going to have to investigate the situation. We can save our bosses from an early death if we will try to get along with our co-workers and not run to the boss with every offense.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree—and teach this myself. Matthew 18:15–17 applies everywhere: families, friends, work, and, of course, church.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I believe there is a difference between tolerating bad behavior and learning to get along with everyone’s issues in the context of community.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I believe there is a difference between tolerating bad behavior and learning to get along with everyone’s issues in the context of community.

    • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

      I agree, Timothy. There is a huge difference between a very bad mood and bad character. We don’t have to be best friends with our co-workers to know they may be suffering in their personal life, but bad character exhibits a pattern of bad behavior which can spoil the whole barrel of productivity.

    • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

      “We can save our bosses from an early death if we will try to get along with our co-workers and not run to the boss with every offense.”

      This is a truth that I have been trying to instill in my children as well. When one of them upsets the other, I encourage them to go to one another and work it out between themselves without having to get involved myself.

  • Kerry Palmer

    Many times our natural inclination is to avoid confrontation. We may even fool ourselves into thinking that, with time, a person’s behavior will improve. It is amazing, however, how much a leader’ stock rises with the exercise of costly grace. Handling difficult situations shows your team that you will act with the best interest of the organization at heart, and this instills the confidence and trust that every leader needs to be most effective.

    Thanks so much for a much-needed post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. And people’s behavior often improves faster when they are gracefully confronted. I think it also subtly communicates that we believe they can change—and expect it.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I like that aspect of it, Michael. It’s your belief in someone’s ability to change that fuels the “confrontation.”

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I like that aspect of it, Michael. It’s your belief in someone’s ability to change that fuels the “confrontation.”

      • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

        Yes! exactly :) I had been learning this the hard way. I am not the most tactful guy, so going to have that tough conversation soon wouldn’t lead to good things. It’s better to wait a bit, think things over and TRAIN yourself to gracefully confront them. And as you pointed, Michael, believing and expecting they can change.. I believe this also communicates our faith in them, and makes most people value you all the more.

    • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

      “Many times our natural inclination is to avoid confrontation.” As a peace-lover and people-pleaser this is definitely the case for me. To confront a peer is extremely difficult for me, but when I know God is challenging me to do so, the blessings of obedience are well worth the struggle.

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    Grace is only cheap grace when you attempt to remove the consequences of sin. Grace is radical and it completely removes punishment (Rom. 8:1). What people miss is that they still have to own their mess. It is THEIR responsibility to clean it up. As leadership, it is critical to allow people to make mistakes and not to create a culture of fear or control. The most freedom you can extend is giving people the responsibility to clean up the mess in their life and in the life of those they have affected with their sin.

    • Anonymous

      True, you don’t want a culture of fear or control. All confrontation (I don’t really like that word), must be seasoned with kindness and fairness.

    • Anonymous

      True, you don’t want a culture of fear or control. All confrontation (I don’t really like that word), must be seasoned with kindness and fairness.

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    I’m personally learning right now that people are generally stronger than I give them credit for. I don’t need to shelter them from how I really think and feel. Still takes a lot of trust for me; but the reward is well worth the risk.

    • http://joshuamhood.com Josh Hood

      Great insight, Geoff. I agree.

    • Anonymous

      Really good point. Five gold stars.

    • Anonymous

      Really good point. Five gold stars.

  • Anonymous

    This post is obviously about relating grace to business practices. But it reminds me of something I’ve recently learned as I’ve been studying God’s grace for us more and more and I think an application can be made in this setting as well.

    God’s grace is not the permission to sin but rather the power to overcome sin.

    Therefore, if we will offer grace as God has, we will not simply grant permission to sin but rather provide a culture of helping folks overcome it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I think it also means, standing for the greatness in others. In other words, we need to believe people can handle confrontation and can really grow is we take a stand FOR them.

      • Anonymous

        Well said, Edwin.

      • Anonymous

        Well said, Edwin.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        Interesting perspective…and one that we don’t always think about. When we have criticisim or response to an offense, is it just about making us feel better or is it to truly help the other person? Our places of work would likely look much different if our goal was to inspire the greatness of others.

  • http://twitter.com/kevinowens4 Kevin Owens

    I have seen companies suffer severe morale drops because, to many (especially in key leadership positions), grace and forgiveness came to be synonymous with a lack of consequences and accountability. This environment, left unchecked, not only killed morale, it eventually affected productivity and profitability.

    Cheap Grace hopes the situation will improve over time. It rarely does. Costly Grace proactively offers an opportunity for redemption and allows those involved to move on when the offer is rejected. Thanks for the great post.

    • Anonymous

      Well stated, Kevin.

    • Anonymous

      Well stated, Kevin.

    • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

      “Costly Grace proactively offers an opportunity for redemption and allows those involved to move on when the offer is rejected.”

      Well put!

  • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy@confessionsofalegalist

    Though grace is necessary for us to be reconciled with God, it does not always apply to our lives now. Nobody wants a medical school to show grace to a failing student. We all want our doctor to be tested and to have earned his stripes.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      GREAT illustration.

    • Karl Mealor

      That IS a great illustration.

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      Great example!

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      Great example!

  • http://donaldjamesparker.com Donald James Parker

    Oh my gosh! Someone has the intestinal fortitude to bring up the topic of “cheap grace”! And who better than Mary DeMuth to say it? This is a nugget that should be included in an anthology of editorials (Michael – you have a book generating blog here!) I have an extensive blurb on this “black hole” topic in my first non-fiction book which I might finish some day. I’d never to be deliver the message so eloquently as this one by Mary.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Mary does an awesome job, doesn’t she? She sent it to me yesterday. I knew immediately I had to publish it!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Mike!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Mike!

    • Anonymous

      Well, thanks for the very kind words. I do think you need to finish that book. So needed!

    • Anonymous

      Well, thanks for the very kind words. I do think you need to finish that book. So needed!

      • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

        Hey Mary, I do also appreciate this post very much. I will now be looking into your books! :)

      • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

        Hey Mary, I do also appreciate this post very much. I will now be looking into your books! :)

  • Karl Mealor

    Paul writes of “speaking the truth in love”. This is a hard balance to keep. I tend to either be too loving (and not confront) or to be too truthful (not compassionate).

    This article also has implications for parenting. Thanks for sharing.

    • Anonymous

      True, I’ve tested these principles in the crucible of my family.

  • Marie

    What do you do when it is the boss who is the difficult situation at work?

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com womenlivingwell

    Great Bohhoeffer quote!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    This is one of the big debates going on in many circles concerning unions. In many situations, a trouble maker can just run to the union and be protected from outrageous behavior. In a lot of unionized organizations, especially education, it’s almost impossible to fire someone.
    It then becomes a very tricky situation to discipline someone when your H.R. department won’t back you up.

    This type of situation requires creative leadership and finding ways to separate troubling employees from others. Many times it’s the good employees that leave. This can really be a problem when you have tenured teachers who really should not be teaching. What do you do?

    While the debate will go on, I think union leaders can do everyone a favor and police their own ranks and stop offering cheap grace to people who truly don’t deserve it..

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      I have watched the teacher unions for a number of years now and I am absolutely astounded by many of the things that unionized teachers can do and then still have their jobs protected. Maybe things would be different if we used grace to inspire others towards greatness instead of using grace to allow for an ever-decreasing minimum of standards.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        So true. I really feel bad for the good teachers that get lumped in with the
        ones that cause trouble.

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          Agreed. There are many really good teachers out there that could use a little more credit.

  • Anonymous

    I love God’s timing in all things. I am right in the middle of an exercise in costly grace. The situation is not abusive – in fact the individual is as sweet as she can be; but we’re too small of an organization to allow anyone to not pull their weight. Sitting down with a nice person and telling them where they are falling short of expectations can be just as difficult as sitting down with an abusive person, especially if the intention is to realign on expected behavior and achieve success in meeting those goals.

    I’m thinking of Jesus telling his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to achieve eternal life (John 6). Appalled, they turned away. Seemingly without conflict, but also costly grace. “This is what is expected. Believe.” He didn’t lower his expectations to increase his follower count.

    • Anonymous

      Very good illustration. You’re right, the truth must be told, even to nice people who don’t pull their weight.

    • Anonymous

      Very good illustration. You’re right, the truth must be told, even to nice people who don’t pull their weight.

  • Anonymous

    Henry Cloud says in Changes That Heal you must deliver truth with grace. Don’t just spit the truth at them, do it with a side of grace. Truth without grace is judgment. Great words. Now I’m just working on living that everyday.

    • Anonymous

      Me too.

    • Anonymous

      Me too.

    • Anonymous

      Me too.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Loved the article. We’ve been having discussions about this at our church in regards to our youth group. Some questions that have arisen – How far do you let grace go in your leaders? What standards should be set and should grace cover the faults? Does grace mean we do not confront others when they are not living appropriately?

    As for work, no one springs to mind. I think most of the employees here are holding their own and living up to what they’re supposed to do.

    • Anonymous

      Whether it be in a church or work, there is a tension that exists between allowing someone to continue on a path (for a short period of time) versus lovingly confronting. We don’t want to be constantly confronting…

    • Anonymous

      Whether it be in a church or work, there is a tension that exists between allowing someone to continue on a path (for a short period of time) versus lovingly confronting. We don’t want to be constantly confronting…

  • http://www.theanimusproject.com Jamie O’Donoghue

    WOW! Great post. I am an instant fan.

    1 Cor 15:10 doesn’t depict the grace of God to be something that we have no interaction with. Grace is not passive, it actually encourages action on our part not on God’s part. His part was to bestow it on the humble in the first place.

    While grace is opposed to earning it is in no way opposed to effort. I believe Mary portrayed this wonderfully well.

    • Anonymous

      Well said. Love that: Grace is not passive.

      • http://www.theanimusproject.com Jamie O’Donoghue

        Thank you Mary. Your post is a breath of fresh air.

    • Anonymous

      Well said. Love that: Grace is not passive.

    • Anonymous

      Well said. Love that: Grace is not passive.

  • Jennifer

    WOW. This is a powerful message. Costly grace isn’t easy, however, it is needed no matter how hard it may be. Taking a stand and saying this isn’t acceptable sets the bar for others. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jennifer.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jennifer.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jennifer.

  • Susie Koch

    This is one of the clearest conversations I have heard about this topic. The other side is that when someone who cares about you cares enough to risk much to confront you and bring up ‘the bar’ for you, YOU benefit when you take good council, knowing that person has nothing to gain, but DOES have your best interest at heart!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      We can definitely benefit in learning from those that confront us. We can also, then, set an example by our responses in how feedback, criticism and confrontation should be handled in our work environment.

  • Jill Savage

    Michael, this is such a good post. As a CEO, I’ve faced this many times but never thought about it being “cheap grace.” I had a situation several years ago where I had to let a long-time employee go with costly grace. She had made our work environment unsafe. I have never regretted doing what I had to do, but I will also say it was one of the hardest things to do.

    And I will also say that I probably let 3-4 months go by with cheap grace before I took the step of costly grace. It’s easy to do…but not healthy.

    • Anonymous

      Well said, Jill. And that’s what’s so hard about being a CEO (I imagine) is that you have to make unpopular decisions that will hurt people sometimes.

  • TNeal

    I worked in a large factory and saw morale drop. Rumors flew. Work slowed. Eventually people lost their jobs. I lost mine by choice. Most others did not.

    Two things hurt the factory and its productivity. First, supervisors played favorites allowing friends to do jobs others were more qualified to do. Second, the unwillingness to confront those who didn’t actually work on their assigned projects. Many stood around talking for an entire shift.

    In both cases, the quality of our product suffered and the work got outsourced to Mexico.

    If management had done its job, labor would have grumbled, grumbled, grumbled. Then people would move past that stage and settled into a better, more productive work environment.

  • Larry Thompson

    Thanks! I like the way you worded this. Many times I see people in ministry who want to be so nice that they actually enable people to be snarky, backbiting and gossips. In fact, many times the person who is being gossiped about will windup in a meeting being accused of whatever, while the gossip who got them there is a hero. By the way, not good for team building. Grace should be given when a person needs help, not when they are being the problem. Problems should be confronted and they can be confronted gracefully without encouraging or condoning hurtful or harmful behavior. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing (and call it grace).

  • http://lauraleeshaw.com LauraLee Shaw

    This wisdom is desperately needed in our workplaces, families and churches. I have a friend who points out that one of the reasons we don’t want to exercise costly grace (or receive it) is because we want “false peace.” WE’d rather let things go in the name of sowing peace than to deal with situations that lead to right peace based on Truth.

    Thanks for writing this, Mary. Your devotion to Jesus is obvious, because you are willing to speak His Truths, even the hard ones.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I agree. We deify false peace because we’re afraid of rocking the boat.

  • TNeal

    In thinking about this topic further, I remembered a conversation I had last week. I’m a freshman football coach but work with all the athletes during the off season at our local high school.

    During a weight room session, I spoke to individuals about cursing. I said, “If you curse, I warn you. If you curse again, I shut down the weight room for everyone.” A hard stand, yes, but one that changes an atmosphere.

    I pointed at my lips then head then toward the football stadium. “I want to discipline this to discipline that in order to make a difference out there.”

    A senior said, “I’m not going to be here next year but I support what you’re telling us.”

    • Anonymous

      Very, very good point about our mouths and the importance of keeping them disciplined.

  • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

    This really hits home in the classroom. I teach seniors and am under huge pressure from administration/parents to “be flexible” when students have not completed an assignment or taken a quiz/test. But how many weeks before we’ve crossed the line from “flexible” to “irresponsible”?

    My daughter is a sophomore in college, and she reports that there’s no such thing as “late work.” Even when sick, she drags herself to class, turns in her homework, take the quiz, or gets zeros. End of story.

    In two decades of teaching, I’ve never once had a student return to thank me for giving them extra, extra, extra “grace.” But I’ve had plenty come back and thank me for holding them accountable.

    Each student and each situation is different. I am not suggesting a one-size-fits-all mentality that elevates rules over relationships. I pray daily for the wisdom of Solomon, especially in our current culture of entitlement which tells our kids that escaping consequences is the ultimate “win” in the game of life.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a great point. I used to teach and was pressured to pass kids who were getting an 11% in my class. All that while I gave them time in class to do their assignments.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love your second paragraph. POW-erful!

  • http://felicitywhite.com Felicity

    Excellent. This is a needed perspective in our culture. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome, Felicity. Love your name!

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    Michael, that is precisely the kind of cover under which workplace bullies operate! I have written a book called “When Christians Hurt Christians”. It is the very thing that most Christians are unaware of because we think the bullying was left behind on the school yard. I have met a lot of workplace bullies as well as suffered under three of them before I even knew how a workplace bully operated. I know of two bullies who never realized that is what they were doing, and one of them is a Sunday School teacher. Many workers suffer, leave their jobs, and are fired because of bully-manufactured evidence and treatment all because the boss didn’t want to deal with the problem, or didn’t even see a problem though the signs were there.

    Bullies are more prevalent than leaders realize because they present one face to the boss and a demon face to their victims. When leaders turn a blind eye to the smoke, the whole company can go down in flames; and this is what can happen when the reigns are not tightened on a bully.

    I am so very passionate about this because it is happening not only in the workplace but in all aspects of life. The problem doesn’t seem to be lack of knowledge it is apathy toward dealing with it.

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    Michael, that is precisely the kind of cover under which workplace bullies operate! I have written a book called “When Christians Hurt Christians”. It is the very thing that most Christians are unaware of because we think the bullying was left behind on the school yard. I have met a lot of workplace bullies as well as suffered under three of them before I even knew how a workplace bully operated. I know of two bullies who never realized that is what they were doing, and one of them is a Sunday School teacher. Many workers suffer, leave their jobs, and are fired because of bully-manufactured evidence and treatment all because the boss didn’t want to deal with the problem, or didn’t even see a problem though the signs were there.

    Bullies are more prevalent than leaders realize because they present one face to the boss and a demon face to their victims. When leaders turn a blind eye to the smoke, the whole company can go down in flames; and this is what can happen when the reigns are not tightened on a bully.

    I am so very passionate about this because it is happening not only in the workplace but in all aspects of life. The problem doesn’t seem to be lack of knowledge it is apathy toward dealing with it.

    • Anonymous

      Great book title, Gina. And searing insight!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This sounds like a great book title!

      • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

        Thanks, Michael. It isn’t ready for publishing yet, but soon…

  • http://twitter.com/MicheleBarnett Michele Barnett

    Great post! I’ve wrestled with this issue for years and I’ve come to believe that the real heart of the issue of cheap grace is that somewhere along the way, we’ve made grace synonymous with mercy. Mercy is the act of withholding a consequence for a transgression; grace is unconditionally loving and accepting a person in spite of their transgressions. I would argue that a leader who is always merciful probably isn’t very graceful. Most likely, they are more concerned with being liked by their employees than they are with showing genuine love and compassion for them. On the other hand, a completely unmerciful leader is more concerned with controlling and instilling fear in their employees. In either case, a too-merciful or an unmerciful leader is a selfish leader. A graceful leader seeks a balance between mercy and consequences and is more focused on the betterment of not only the organization, but of the people serving within the organization.

    • Anonymous

      This is fodder for a great blog post, Michele.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a very good distinction. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Amen and amen, Mary. I have seen people hurt in the church because leaders — and, yes, pastors — haven’t lovingly confronted their sisters and brothers in the church. This leads to confusion and pain. Some pastors and other church leaders are people-pleasers. How can we the church change this? I suppose, one person at a time, beginning with me.

    • Anonymous

      And me too. I so want everyone to like me!

  • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

    This was a great post! Really something to think about!

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    The difficultly of having the courage to confront also seems to allow for cheap grace, even when we aren’t ok with a situation.

    • Anonymous

      True. It’s very hard to do. And it takes overcoming our fear.

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    The difficultly of having the courage to confront also seems to allow for cheap grace, even when we aren’t ok with a situation.

  • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

    If you don’t mind me asking- How long did it take you to write this post? It was very good!

    • Anonymous

      A couple hours, but I’ve been thinking about it a long time.

      • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

        I can tell. It was awesome!

  • http://karendalycook.com Karendalycook

    I really appreciate your perspective on this topic. So often in the church we throw down the grace card as if it magically trumps inappropriate behaviors and attitudes. Your words, “we prefer our own likability to doing what is right” has driven us to a dangerous crossroads. As leaders we are responsible to care for those under our charge. Sometimes that care comes in the form of firm yet gentle truth. All truth is debilitating and all grace is good intentions run amuck. Grace & Truth…the ultimate combo.

  • http://MaraMattiaArt.blogspot.com MaraMattiaArt

    Perhaps it would be good to define the word, grace, in the original Greek…quite a different meaning than what you may have thought!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FJRLITL5IEFHDDFURAESLXOOZ4 Jim Whitaker

    Great concept of cheap grace and costly grace. Too often I have seen in the workplace leaders who seem oblivious to what their team is doing. This not only has a negative effect on the person who is not living up to the stands of the team, but also to the rest of the team. Cheap grace leads to a lack of accountability and therefore the team or person runs the leader and not the other way around. When people know where they stand they at least know what they can do about it. Maybe the role is not the right fit for them and they need to use their talents elsewhere. Then the rest of the folks who are doing well can feel better about the fact that that are not being taken advantage of. If people are not confronted about issues up front it becomes a pot with a lid on it that sooner or later blows up from the pressure that is building up inside it. We have to be honest with folks and let them know where they stand and provide some accountability along the way too. Only then can we walk out the door every day, leave the work behinds and feel good about ourselves. Grace given by God was not cheap. It cost God God’s son. In the same we can provide grace that is costly, but in a way that is given with love.

  • JS

    I don’t disagree with what Ms. DeMuth is saying about the workplace – everyone should be held accountable for their behavior. And I agree that the issue with such accountability is integrity. However, I disagree that grace is the culprit, primarily because it’s not grace that causes one to overlook such workplace issues – it’s a lack of integrity. True grace does not excuse anyone from accountability. I simply don’t agree with the author’s definition of grace.
    JS

    • Anonymous

      Well said about lack of integrity. Thanks for your two cents on this.

  • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

    Grace is definitely a key aspect of our relationships with Christ and with one another, but like you quoted Bonhoeffer – grace without discipleship is cheap.

    The Great Commission is to make disciples – not overlook sin. While extending grace is a part of discipleship, there are also consequences to every action, and part of discipleship is helping others to come through the other side closer to Christ.

    Grace doesn’t say “it’s OK,” but helps us get back up and try again.

    • Anonymous

      Love this: Grace doesn’t say “it’s OK,” but helps us get back up and try again.

      • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

        Thanks, Mary! Great post and great discussion in the comments!

  • Jo

    I agree to a point. Before we exercise grace through confrontation, we must go to God and ask Him to examine our own hearts, to search us and try us and see if there be any wicked way in us and lead us to the way everlasting. Then, and only then, do we confront leaning on Him to show us what to say and when to say it.

    • Anonymous

      True, that’s important. But then you could use the excuse that since you make mistakes and sin, you’re automatically disqualified from confronting.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t disagree with this UNLESS we use our own sin as an excuse not to confront. Jesus gave us these commands (e.g., Mt. 18:15), knowing that we are sinners and would never be perfect.

  • Bob

    I like the subject matter here. Lovingly confronting others is a critical element of effective leadership. But branding this as cheap or costly grace diminishes grace itself. Grace is God’s act of making spiritually dead sinners alive in Christ (Eph 2:1-10). His grace produces a radical change in our lives and makes us different — a child of God, a new creation, His workmanship. Grace understood biblically is a God thing. He is the source. When grace does flow through us, it is God’s work to bring about His perfect will in our lives. We can count of this being best for all parties involved.

    Many secular bosses call out others for abusive behavior or poor work, but I don’t think anyone would hold them up as paradigms of grace in this world. Let’s not label poor leadership, or fearful behavior toward others as cheap grace. That is when we take the marrow out of the word.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for elevating the discussion of grace, Bob.

  • Destiney Sanchez

    I love your blog and wisdom on leadership. Excellent topic today. Yes His grace is not cheap. Thank you for writing this today.

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome, Destiney.

  • Matthew Vanover

    This is particularly difficult in the church setting. I work as a full-time music minister and am sometimes misunderstood as being too hard. It is particularly demand that people do their jobs and produce the results that are directly reflected in their job description. As soon as you criticize a person’s lack of performance someone offers the cheap grace concept to alleviate the tension and avoid the controversy created by a person’s ineffectiveness.

    It is good to offer true grace to those who sincerely want to turn their actions around and do better. Cheap grace shouldn’t be used as an excuse to deal with real issues.

    • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

      Another factor is that getting how to offer that needed ‘grace’ takes time. A team that has worked together for 6 months will not have the same understanding of grace than the team that has worked together for 6 months.

      We experience this first hand at my team, and I realize that what seem graceful to me wasn’t very graceful to others. On the other hand, what seemed graceful to them was the use of too much time for me. It’s painful to work in a time, even with costly grace, but at the same time, there is a great joy when we all get going along ;)

  • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

    This is SO timely… I had been thinking about this member of my team. She recently brought in a speaker for one of our major events. Although I appreciate all of her good intentions, the speaker really took credibility away from us. People left insulted and shocked at his lack of preparation. Fortunately our loyal congregation was kind in acknowledging these things happen, but not so much for the visiting friends.

    With that said, I wondered how or if I should bring this up to her, particularly because after the speaker, she was so embarrassed and tried to play it off (which only added more to injury). Now I know… I can also see that this is for the improvement of all of us. Gee, thanks Mary!

  • http://twitter.com/dbonleadership Dan

    I work with troubled youth and one of the things I try and teach them is grace but also owning up to any mistake. I think leaders need to have a hard and soft side to them. Being graces and tough and demanding accountability.

    • Anonymous

      Well said.

  • Brettvaden

    Before merging with a dying church in the city, my congregation was known as “Grace Church.” I think that, to a large extent, the name was fitting. Most visitors were attracted to us because they could sense a welcoming, non-judgmental attitude from our members. As our church grows, the biggest danger I see is that the grace we exhibit will not mature from a baby grace to an adult grace. Babies are given a kind of grace, in that not at lot is expected of them, but adults require and deserve to be treated with a grace that not only accepts where people are, but also calls them to account.

    • Anonymous

      I like that, baby grace and adult grace. Might be a seed for a book.

  • Anonymous

    One very specific thing that cheap grace allows….and it deeply hurts employee relationships and organizations as a whole is: Sarcasm. I’ve seen it debilitate people and teams from moving forward effectively. It becomes a way of relating that’s absolutely unhealthy.

    I imagine costly grace requires much prayer…for the deliverer and the recipient (s).

    • Anonymous

      Justin, you should write a post about how sarcasm kills morale in the workplace.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the suggestion Mary. I will. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I so agree with this. The only thing worse is cynicism.

  • Susan Panzica

    Thank you Mary for opening this discussion. My husband and I have our own business and have had similar experience. Our goal is to balance loving the unlovely with speaking the truth in love. It is a comfort to know that when we confront such issues, He is there in the midst of us (Mt. 18:20).

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Matthew 18 is the way to go.

  • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

    Great posts that definitely challenges the avoidance tendency that many of us have. There have been times when I hesitate to call people out because I fear that it will open myself up to same. However, if I wait and get called out on my flaws and then try to same something the it appears that I am only reacting out of anger or embarrassment. It’s much better to go ahead and say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said.

    • Anonymous

      and to be the kind of person who is confrontable.

  • http://www.thequietquill.blogspot.com DJ Hughes

    Sometimes doing the popular thing and doing the right thing are two different things.

    Cheap grace is at the expense of truth. In leadership, we must uphold a standard of grace AND truth. Of course, only Jesus was the perfect fullness of both (John 1:14). But as Christ followers, we are to become more and more like Him; thus, we too must embody both grace and truth.

    • Anonymous

      Oh to live a balanced life of both!

  • http://twitter.com/jakemusselman Jacob Musselman

    What a day to have this post. It’s a great post about how we view grace and how we end up living those perceptions out in the rest of our lives.

    I’ve been thinking about this: Is only God great enough to extend grace that benefits both the individual and the whole simultaneously? If so, I probably lean more towards acting on behalf of the whole.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a good question. My hunch is that it is the whole does benefit when we deal kindly with the one who offends.

  • http://alyssaavant.com/blog Alyssa Avant

    From my experience this not only happens in the workplace, but sadly in some churches of today as well. The line “to keep the peace” stood out to me. It is sad that this is done in our churches today to be “politically correct” rather than to stand for TRUTH.

    • Anonymous

      Good point, Alyssa. And all in all, we must be tender in the way we confront.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Christians engage in bad behavior all the time.

    St. paul tells us that when the law came in, sin got worse!

    Announcing the free grace of Christ (the gospel) is the power of God (Romans 1:16)

    The Holy Spirit is more than capable of bringing about the kinds of people that He wants.

    Those that run roughshod over their neighbors, willy-nilly, haven’t heard the gospel.

  • http://infuse.posterous.com/ InSpirit

    an old term, ‘fear of man’…

  • http://www.transformationalleadershiphq.com Mighty

    I think that grace is almost always juxtaposed with judgment. We realize that we are given grace when we realize what we were spared from. And the transgressor needs to suffer the consequences of sin even though the sin is forgiven. But if grace is just given without thought of consequences, then we hurt ourselves and the ‘sinner,’ too.

  • http://twitter.com/michaellimas Michael Limas

    Mary – How do you define ‘Grace’?

    • Anonymous

      The Greek word is typically charis. Obviously, there’s the staid definition “unmerited favor.” But I’m approaching this subject with Bonhoeffer’s specific definition of cheap grace he delineated and defined (much better than I could) in The Cost of Discipleship.

  • http://twitter.com/mariachong mariachong

    Grace is brave. Love is active. Has our Westernized, feel-good Christianity removed courage from the qualifications of a leader?

    I can’t imagine Jesus saying, “Sigh. Mary, can’t we just put up with the devil and his minions? It will stir up too much trouble to us to oppose them. Think of how hard it’s going to be to fix this mess. Sigh.” Even with ordinary people, he’s ready to correct, rebuke and love (usually all three…even with his own disciples!).

    Jesus includes and excludes people from certain situations. He enters and then departs from cities. He participates and withdraws. Fear and anxiety about the reactions or expectations of others don’t play a part in his decisions. He is the perfect model of a kind but decisive master.

    The entire New Testament is sprinkled with phrases like, “Do not tolerate” “Get rid of” “There must not be” “Have nothing to do with” in addition to all of our wonderful passages of grace.

    Since when has faith in Christ become a car without a steering wheel or brakes?? Can it be true that the average high school football coach is more decisive and demands a high standard from their players than we do in the church and as Christian leaders? Say it ain’t so!!

    • Anonymous

      This is a blog post, Maria!

  • Dana Forbes

    An anemic theology contributes to the problem of cheap grace. When we emphasize one quality of God’s character over another, we lose our theological balance. For example, I have heard, “We can’t confront this person’s behavior because Christ is compassionate.” The problem is God’s compassion and holiness is inextricable connected (theological balance) and expressed through loving confrontation. I have found it’s more important how you confront than what you confront.

    Great post!

    • Anonymous

      Dana, I do believe you’ve nutshelled it.

  • BeverlyMChi

    I have been professionally effected by such a workplace and it has sent my career in a tailspin. I would love to send this article to my former employer. Thank you for this article because it gives me comfort to know that someone understands. I continue to pray for God’s next assignment for me. I long for the place where I can add my true value and realize my greatest potential for the glory of God.

    • Anonymous

      So sorry to hear about your experience. That must’ve been hard.

  • http://jennyrain.com JennyRain

    great post!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Jenny.

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  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Thanks for the great reminder that we need to be executioners of costly grace in all that we do. I’m so thankful to have read this today.

  • Zoe

    So very true. My son (6) was in a class last year that had one teacher (1 day a week) who was borderline abusive to the students – constantly yelling, telling a student to shut up who was crying because his finger was crushed, ridiculing and deriding students in the name of ‘joking’ etc. I confronted her gently for I believed she did actually care for the students but needed to change her approach and speech, and her response was to ask for ‘grace’ – she was tired, unwell, didn’t mean to be so rude nor to yell at the children, it was just her way of joking.. the list was endless. In short, she was asking a group of 4, 5 and 6 year old students to show more grace than she was willing or able to show them. Fortunately it was resolved once I pointed this out to her and she apologized to the children involved and made changes. But I shudder to think how often this false grace is demanded and unfortunately given – by not accepting the excuse, and indulged, she was enabled to change and grow. And most importantly, those tender young souls were spared.

  • David Adeola

    This is a very much needed word at this time where the message of grace comes across as a License for misbehaving and God’s grace is available so I can do what I want…! Some don’t even want to read some parts of the Bible anymore! Paul warns in Hebrews 10:29 “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” We need to continue to emphasize that it costs Jesus everything and let holiness be the hallmark of a true believer! Thank you!

  • http://www.convenientcalendar.com Convenient Calendar

    There is a misconception between grace and tollerance, Jesus had grace for the sinners for they know now what they did but he could not tolerate the money changers in the church, discernment is they key, if you are dealing with an unbeliever than the grace should be there, but if someone knows better and claims to know Christ etc than that would probably be tollerance in most cases, but not all.

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