Why human nature resists grace:
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful” – Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor self portrait
In Flannery O’Connor’s Southern Gothic style of writing, her characters are often religious pretenders, more concerned with appearing good than actually being good. Their redemption, or grace, usually comes at a devastating price, like the Southern grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. She encounters a murderous character called the Misfit in the final moments of her life. Only when she’s about to meet her maker does grandma finally grasp the universality of mankind that transcends her hollow religious affectations. She realizes we’re all connected as human beings.
With death imminent, grandma tells the Misfit, “Why you’re one of my own babies. You’re one of my own children”. She reaches out to extend her new found unconditional love to the Misfit. He recoils and kills her. Grace arrived too late for grandma, but for one brief moment, she experiences a true holy moment, a deep joy and connection to life, unknown during her living years. One of the witnesses to her final act of grace says, “She would have been a good woman, if it had been someone there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
Grandma bites the dust. Is death what it takes to show us grace?
So is this what O’Connor means when she says grace is hard? Is a gun to our head the only thing jarring enough to accept grace into our lives?
Many define grace as unmerited favor from God, a sort of divine assistance. You don’t have to earn grace, but you must accept grace to receive it. Grace is available to anyone who is ready. The transformation of grace is often preceded by an upheaval of some sort, or the painful realization that our usual way of doing things is no longer serving us. Something inside us dies in order for us to experience the rebirth grace entails. Grace aligns us with the source; it connects us to the flow of the universe. Your life changes when you live in grace because the way you live changes when you discard the stuff that doesn’t work anymore. And indeed, change is painful, just like O’Connor says.
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