Grace and Tolerance: The Antidote to Anxiety and Stress #21

Warwick Fairfax

May 19, 2020

Conflict and leadership frequently go hand-in-hand. Add to the mix a global pandemic that comes with stay-at-home orders, shuttered schools and remote working, and millions find themselves living day-to-day in a powder keg of anxiety and stress. How best to navigate this unprecedented confluence of circumstances to minimize its affect on your family relationships and your business’s bottom line? Crucible Leadership founder and BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax and podcast co-host Gary Schneeberger discuss the indispensable role grace and tolerance play in not just avoiding flare-ups, but encouraging each other at a time when encouragement is more essential than ever. It all starts, they explain, with doing the same kind of self-audit that’s critical to learning the lessons of a crucible experience. Then, once you understand how your unique stressors and anxiety triggers affect you, you can take practical steps to defuse tensions with others and keep lines of communication and productivity operating smoothly. “The core of grace,” Fairfax says, “is treating other people like you’d like to be treated.”

Hightlights

 

  • The problem we need to address (4:55)
  • Extending grace and tolerance is a choice you must make, and it’s not easy (6:01)
  • Harvard Business Review’s wisdom on extending grace in the workplace — physical or virtual (7:40)
  • Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of “grace” (11:06)
  • Grace as “unmerited favor” (12:47)
  • Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of “tolerance” (15:07)
  • Why grace and tolerance are needed in crucible moments (18:50)
  • The first step in extending grace under stress (19:40)
  • Why an internal audit is necessary (21:09)
  • The importance of admitting your fears (22:18)
  • Why you must be flexible (24:56)
  • Why showing grace to others is so critical (27:26)
  • Treat others like you’d want to be treated (30:51)
  • Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel on the power of grace-filled words (33:46)
  • The freeing power of grace to the recipient (36:00)
  • The importance of channeling stress in productive ways (37:46)
  • Turning the negatives of being sheltered in place into positives (40:35)
  • How grace and tolerance help strengthen relationships (42:00)
  • The benefits of extending and receiving grace (43:18)
  • Key takeaways from the episode (46:36)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome, everyone to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of the podcast and the communication’s director for Crucible Leadership. And I’m thrilled to welcome you to the latest episode of a podcast that deals in what we call crucible experiences. Crucible experiences are those moments that we go through in life that are by definition, painful, they’re failures, they’re setbacks. They’re those things that either we cause in some way, or it’s things that are visited upon us that can change the trajectory of our lives, can really knock us off our feet. And the reason that we talk about them though, is not so that we can camp out here and feel bad. We talk about them in the hopes of helping you if you’re going through the same thing, overcome those things, learn the lessons of those crucibles, and apply those lessons to a vision and a passion and a life on purpose that leads to significance.

Gary S:
This particular episode many times, we will talk and by we I mean, myself and who I’ll introduce in a minute, the host of the program Warwick Fairfax. Sometimes, most of the time we talk to guests. But today it’s going to be Warwick and I talking about some pretty big ideas, some principles that undergird what Crucible Leadership’s about. And Warwick, we do as I said, have a big picture show today for the listeners, don’t we?

Warwick F:
Absolutely Gary, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Gary S:
We are going to talk today listener about the subjects of Grace and Humility. I’m sorry, not Grace and Humility. Humility is good too, but we’re going to talk about Grace and Tolerance. And both of those do require humility on our parts, but our focus is going to be on grace and tolerance as the antidotes to anxiety and stress.

Gary S:
Right now as we’re recording this, anxiety and stress are perhaps more prevalent in memory for many of us who are hearing these words, because we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as we’re recording this. So certainly, that’s one of the reasons why we’re wanting to address this topic, but stressful times, which can lead to stressful reactions occur every day and have occurred long before COVID-19 and will occur long after COVID-19. And our hope here in having this discussion is to give you some tips and some insights into how to manage those stressful times in ways that manifest grace, in ways that manifest tolerance, so that we can overcome anxiety and stress.

Gary S:
Warwick, this is a pretty big subject, where do we begin in having this discussion?

Warwick F:
Well, I think a good place to begin is just the situation we are in right now because it provides a good case study really, with the challenges of dealing with stress right now with the coronavirus and most of us around the world are being asked by relevant authorities federal, state, local to shelter-in-place, to minimize the amount of times we’re going outside, wear marks if you go to the grocery store. And we’re in a situation where we’re working from home, some of us have been furloughed or laid off. Some have young kids at home, maybe adult kids, we actually have our three adult kids at home with us. One of them has got two weeks to go before he finishes his senior year and another one’s working from home and another’s about to go to grad school. So everything is happening.

Warwick F:
Just this last week, a couple days the internet went out, which it’s like if you got kids studying for exams, and everything it’s like that’s sort of a disaster. I have my own home-based business and there’s all sorts of things that causes stress both from a health perspective, from an economic perspective. And in times of stress, we’re often not at our best.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Sometimes we’re at our worst, unfortunately. And that can manifest itself in getting a bit stir crazy and wanting to get out but not get too near people, and wondering what’s going to happen with our job and health. And as we get stressed, we often get a little frayed at the edges, we can be a little temperamental, and when we’re under stress being humans, unfortunately, we then can take it out on people who we’re around, which it will be for many of us our family, maybe for some it might be roommates, whoever it is.

Warwick F:
And you have a bunch of people in close quarters for weeks now and who knows how many more weeks more. Things can happen and that’s really where these times of stress and frayed reactions and feelings and emotions, it’s where we most need grace and tolerance. So we’re talking specifically about the impact of the coronavirus on stress. But there’s a broader context where you might be at work, maybe your company’s being merged with another company, maybe you get laid off. There’s all sorts of things that happen in our lives that increase stress, it’s part of being human. So the question is, when that happens, how do you try and mitigate and lessen the challenges of stress, which tends to make you lash out and react in very intolerant ways, very ungraceful ways. Often on those we love or those we work with. So that’s the challenge.

Gary S:
And that’s a very good explanation and a framework, some breadcrumbs of what we’re going to talk about and it’s important to note, a couple things I think about grace and tolerance. One, Warwick and I have been talking about this. One I think, is that this is not a magic potion to get … The things that we’re going to talk about here, having and exhibiting and extending grace and tolerance to each other is not. If I were Muhammad Ali, I would say, “It’s not a pill you take. It is a commitment you make.” It’s not overnight. It’s not something that happens necessarily even easily. It takes work. And we’ll go through how that plays out. But the other thing I think it’s important to talk about at the outset here, is that the reason why we’re talking about this, stress in and of itself can be difficult on relationships, but it can degrade relationships if you take things out on each other, your stress and anxiety.

Gary S:
And in the workplace, it can degrade productivity. So what we’re really trying to do in giving you these tips, is to give you ways to avoid that degradation of productivity and relationship to move beyond that in a way that will allow you to manage your stress, manage your anxiety, and also not just manage your relationships but continue to have your relationships thrive.

Gary S:
And Warwick, before we move on. I wanted to share with the listeners, we’re both subscribers to Harvard Business Review, you for better reasons than I am because you graduated from Harvard Business School. But I find their insights fascinating and every day they send a Management Tip of the Day. And a couple days ago, here’s the Management Tip of the Day, it’s just a couple of paragraphs that they sent about this very subject in the workplace specifically, but that is after all, what Crucible Leadership talks about life in the workplace.

Gary S:
But this is what Harvard Business Review their leadership Tip of the Day of a couple days ago from this recording. When you’re under constant stress, it’s not always easy to be patient and understanding with your co-workers, add in or your family members. But being judgmental doesn’t help anyone. How can you find and demonstrate empathy for your colleagues when you’re emotionally depleted? First, accept that we’re all coping with this coronavirus crisis differently. For example, you may find it helpful to pay close attention to the news, while other colleagues may prefer to limit the amount of information that they take in. Also, be generous in your interpretations of others when they send a terse email or look grumpy on a video call. It’s more than likely that their mood has nothing to do with you, or work.

Gary S:
Do your part by being honest about what you’re feeling at the moment and clearly communicating your needs. And remember that your co-workers and your family members are likely suffering in ways that you don’t necessarily understand. Don’t try to compare suffering. Here’s the payoff here. Instead, lean into compassion, empathy and kindness. That, to me seems like a pretty good formula for grace and tolerance, doesn’t it?

Warwick F:
Oh, absolutely. It’s in times of stress in particular, that we want to, in a sense, amp up our levels of grace, compassion and tolerance to others. I like what you said earlier about, it’s basically a decision it’s not a pill you take, it’s really grace and tolerance or a choice. When you’re under stress, if you just go into autopilot, what tends to happen is you react, the slightest little thing, it’s almost like you’re dry kindling, you’re just waiting for a spark. Some family member, it’s often worse with family members because the more we care about, the more they can set us off. It’s just sadly, human nature. But even at work, you’re just waiting to snap, you’re ready to go, ready for bear and boom, let’s go.

Warwick F:
And that’s where you got to make a choice to say, “Okay, you understand that,” but you’ve got to dial it back a bit before you react. And that’s where some of these tips that we’ll get to in a moment, I think are helpful. But it really starts out with recognizing when you’re under stress, you will tend to react both at home and at work. And you’ve got to make a choice to go down a path of dealing with it. And certainly a big part of that is having compassion, giving somebody the benefit of the doubt. And even if you know that was a bit on called for, that snarky comment that they make in your meeting and something they thought was humorous. Other people might have laughed at it, but you’re not laughing because it’s at your expense. And rather than just, okay, fine payback time. I’ll wait for my opportunity in the meeting. And I’ll think of some other witty retort. It’s like yeah, just let it go.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Is it really worth, amping up the battle of snarky comments and payback? It’s silly. It really starts with making a choice.

Gary S:
It is giving the other person, you said it, the benefit of the doubt. Webster’s Dictionary defines this, I’m a word guy so that means I string a lot of words together, sometimes more than I should. Webster’s Dictionary defines it very concisely. Webster’s defines grace as courteous goodwill. Very simple explanation. And the thing about it is to truly exhibit and extend grace to another person. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it. In fact, many times they’re not going to, in your mind deserve it, you extend it anyway.

Gary S:
I’ve heard it said Warwick, on the subject of forgiveness. And these are similar concepts forgiveness and grace, that the idea of forgiveness is taking the sin of another on yourself. Someone does something to you, and you just don’t make them pay for it. You pay for it on their behalf so that the relationship can continue. Similar sort of thing applies in grace. You don’t have to have someone ask for forgiveness. You don’t have to have someone say, “Oops, I messed up,” to extend grace. In fact, many times, that’s not going to happen. It’s a decision, like you said, it’s a choice to extend to them. This courteous goodwill as Webster’s calls it.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely Gary. It’s very well said. As people of faith, we often think of grace in a more religious or biblical context where, literally, from a biblical perspective, it’s more, Christ, death on the cross for mistakes, sins, if you will. And so from a spiritual perspective, Grace means unmerited favor. It’s doing something to somebody that they don’t deserve. And looking at it more broadly, we’re not extending them grace and forgiving them if you will, because they necessarily deserve it. It’s because it’s the right thing to do because it’s funny and I will talk more about tolerance. But I think in our culture, everybody wants people to be tolerant of them, like be tolerant of me, okay? I don’t care if I’m tolerant to you, you should be tolerant.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
You should be forgiving, you should be understanding. Well, that’s fine, but it’s not nearly enough. We need to focus as much frankly, we need to focus more on being tolerant of other people, of being forgiving of other people, of showing them grace. And you’re right, forgiveness is a whole other subject. I think we’ve talked a little bit about this before. But yes, there’s time and places where something happens that may be particularly egregious or offensive and you will feel like you need to bring something up not in a big meeting, typically one-on-one and say, “Hey,” calmly, “What you did hurt me or offended me or I didn’t really appreciate that.” And they might say, “Oh, gosh. I’m sorry.”

Warwick F:
Unfortunately, because people are pretty human. And more times than not, they’ll say, “Well, sorry, you felt that way. I don’t see it myself and it’s your problem. Why can’t you take a little ribbing or a little whatever?” And okay, you tried, but not everything needs a pitched battle of, let’s have a big meeting. And you got to forgive me and I’ve got to forgive you or whatever it is.

Warwick F:
So often, showing grace is irrespective of whether they apologize and sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes you’ll feel called to ask, sometimes you won’t. If you want others to show grace to you and tolerance, you have to be prepared to do it to them. That’s just the way it works.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And since you brought up tolerance, and I love to look in the dictionary, I looked up the Webster’s definition of tolerance, which is a little bit longer than its definition of grace, but it’s also just a very good way of looking at what tolerance truly is. Here’s what Webster’s dictionary says tolerance is. Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices, differing from or conflicting with one’s own. Now that, there’s no way to have commerce and by that social commerce with any people who you work with, who you live with, who you’re friends with. There’s no way to have social commerce, social interaction with people, where you’re not going to have different ideas, different beliefs, different practices that bump into each other.

Gary S:
And what tolerance addresses is this idea that you can have sympathy for, and indulgence for those things. You don’t have to necessarily change your view, or change their view, but you can have respect for, sympathy for, indulgence for those beliefs and that with a health dose of grace as well, allows us to move on in the relationship in healthy ways.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it’s so true. I feel like we live in an age of particular intolerance to pretty much anything, whether it’s other people’s religions, culture, race, background, politics. We live in an age in which we tend to think my view is right. And the other view is not only wrong, it’s abhorrent. It’s almost evil. So there’s my view, that’s good. And there’s other people’s views that are evil. It’s taking intolerance in a sense to the ultimate extreme.

Warwick F:
And as you well said, you don’t necessarily have. Take politics, you don’t have to necessarily agree with somebody else’s political perspective. But you should respect their right to have it and the fact that you believe in your view, and that’s great. But it doesn’t mean because they believe differently than you whether it’s about politics, or faith. You should be tolerant and understanding and believe that they have every right to believe what they do.

Warwick F:
And I think one of the keys to tolerance is trying to have empathy, the more you understand somebody, the less chance that you will be intolerant. Part of and this would be a whole other discussion, part of where bigotry arises is crass, maybe willful ignorance of somebody else’s culture, somebody else’s race. It’s all these stereotypes you put on. The more you try and understand somebody’s culture that may be very different than yours, and respect that. In fact, while understanding probably, helps with respecting, if you really try and empathize, that helps tolerance but you just have to make a decision that believe in your views strongly. That’s great, but be tolerant and willing to understand other people and don’t assume other people’s motives are evil just because they’re views are different. They just might have a different perspective on the world.

Warwick F:
It’s a very alien concept in our world, which is, understand me but I don’t want to understand you because you’re wrong or evil.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
That’s the age we live in, which is a whole other discussion, but very sad.

Gary S:
Right. And here listener, is where we’re going to turn the corner a little bit. We’ve talked in theory, and in some example of what the dangers of how damaging a lack of grace, a lack of tolerance can be. We’ve talked about why they’re important to manifest so that we don’t in the aftermath of our crucibles, or in the midst of our crucibles, that’s often when this comes up, right? If we’re talking about stressful times, lead to stressful reactions that can be in the midst of a crucible. That is often in the midst of a crucible. And if we don’t manifest grace and tolerance in those moments, that’s when we degrade our relationships. That’s when we degrade the productivity in our workplaces.

Gary S:
So in Crucible Leadership, what we’re about is to help you move beyond the crucible as this podcast is called. So let’s now Warwick, talk about some concrete action steps that listeners can take, if they find themselves, okay, I buy it. I buy it that grace and tolerance are important. How do I do it? How do I get there? What are some steps people can take?

Warwick F:
I think the first step is really the internal. We need to do an internal audit. We need to understand or first recognize that we are under stress, that we’re anxious, and that we’re fraying at the edges and snapping at other people. And one of the things that I find helpful is to understand why. Sometimes I’m stressed, or I’m snappy, and it’s like, “Okay, why is that?” Sometimes I think talking to others can help, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

Warwick F:
The first step is recognize that you’re under stress, and try and understand why. Often it won’t be rocket science. If you’re at home, it may be, I’ve got a bunch of young kids and they’re running around, and I’m trying to do Zoom calls, and I’m trying to work and I can’t think. They asked me to help with homework, which at a young age is not too bad once they get into high school, I can’t remember calculus and what is this? They’re asking me to help and I don’t know. I send my kids to school. Why should I have to do all this stuff? You just get grumpy or maybe you got laid off, which would be totally understandable to be under stress. How am I going to put food on the table? And especially in the time we’re in, it’s often doesn’t a psychologist to help us figure out okay, why are we under stress? What are our triggers? What are those things? So the first step is really do an internal audit and understand that.

Gary S:
And I think right there, and the idea of doing an internal audit, I love that because it’s very similar to the overall Crucible Leadership idea of to come out of your crucible, learn from your crucible, understand your crucible, do an internal audit to process your crucible. So in the same way, do an internal audit to process that stress and anxiety so that you can begin the march toward grace and tolerance.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And really another tip that follows from that is, admit your fears and anxieties to others, or those you live with. Some people are better at doing it than others. There are some men perhaps in particular that believe that we’re islands and suck it up and don’t admit weakness and what have you which is stupid, really. But because chances are those that you love that you live with, or roommates, wherever it is. They’re under stress too and saying, “I’m having a bad day, I’m anxious about, I watch the news and maybe I watched too much, and what’s going to happen will my company close?”

Warwick F:
Maybe all sorts of things, but just admitting your fears helps, because one of the things that does is if you have a loved one who’s admitted to you that they’re fearful and anxious. Miraculously, it’s easy to show them grace and tolerance, because now you understand why they’re snapping. And it’s easier to forgive and understand. It works both ways.

Warwick F:
There’s some strange thing as you admit your fears and anxieties. In some strange way it can actually be calming in a sense because there’s somebody in it with you, you got a community that you can talk about it with each other. So ideally before you snap and we’re human, we’re going to snap sometimes.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Before you snap, how about actually admitting your fears and anxieties, before it happens. You’ll get more grace and tolerance and you might avoid snapping, which will make your loved ones or roommates very thankful if you snap less.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And one of the blessings that I have found in the shelter-in-place period that we’re in as we’re recording this podcast, my wife and I are both working from home. And one of the things that we’ve been able to do when that stress and anxiety hits either one of us is able to take the time to do exactly what you just said. Admit our fears and anxiety to each other in real time. Whereas if we’re both at the office, that’s a lot harder to do. You got to pick up the phone, you got to call. Are you going to get them? No, we can walk into each other’s office areas that we have at home, and we can share those experiences and defuse them.

Gary S:
Just the other day, it worked where we just went for a walk. We went outside, we walked the dog, it took 15 minutes. And what was a very anxious moment, what was a very stressful moment, just all went away and we had a meaningful conversation over those 15 minutes, we had a few laughs over those 15 minutes and the rest of both of our days, improved markedly just by taking that time. So it’s yes, shelter-in-place, working in the same house can lead to stress but what you just said about admit your fears and anxieties, there’s great opportunity in the situation where you are sheltering in place to do that in real time for each other. And it’s a huge, huge way to not degrade relationships, for sure.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And so, after you’ve done the internal audit, and admit your fears and anxieties to those you love that you live with or your roommates, that sets a good foundation really for the next tip or next step, which is to be flexible. If ever there was a time for flexibility, it’s right now as I mentioned before. Working from home, Zoom calls, what have you when you have all sorts of distraction and kids or roommates doing stuff, it’s not easy. You might be used to your commute, pick up coffee on the way to work. Maybe your favorite coffee shop at lunch, we have certain rhythms.

Warwick F:
I think a lot of people, they love their rhythms. That’s certainly me, I like my rhythms. And when it comes to my way of doing things being changed, I find that challenging. When I can’t do what I’m used to doing, I think a lot of people are like that we recognize that the routines being changed, that we’ll call stress. Add that to the fears and anxieties and it’s like, boy, I love going to work and chatting with my buddies or people there or going to the gym. Won’t be able to do that for a while. They’re just routines or exercise class, whatever it is. There are routines that we really enjoy and they’ve been totally upended. Who knows when we’ll be able to go to a restaurant again or wherever it is. So, recognize it is stressful, but it’s important to be flexible and to say, “Okay, this is not easy, but he’s talking to me forever.” And just give yourself a bit of grace in a sense.

Gary S:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s got to start with you, it’s got to start with being able to understand that again, not just in a pandemic, but in work situations that can cause stress and anxiety, to be flexible to, “roll with the punches.” To understand that not everybody has the same rhythms to use your word Warwick, not everybody has the same rhythms as you do. And you have to work with other people.

Gary S:
And back to what I was saying earlier, when you’re doing social commerce or you’re working together, you’re going to bump into each other. It’s bumper cars to some extent, right like in the carnival that’s going to happen, so how do you not knock each other off the roads? You have grace and tolerance. If you bump into each other, you recognize that people have different ways of doing things. And you look for the patch of grass, that common ground that you can find, and you manifest your flexibility and that can help you really move down the road to what we’re talking about here.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Really after flexibility, that we began to talk about, it’s really tied to that too. Grace starts at home. Grace starts with yourself. Obviously, you got to show grace to others. Many of us and certainly I would be included in this are often our harshest critic. It’s like, why did that irritate me? I realized with shelter-at-home it’ll pass one of these days. Why do I keep getting frustrated? The smartest thing when you snap is immediately if you do it because we’re human we’re going to do it, is to apologize and say, “I’m sorry. That was a bit uncalled for.” If you can’t do it immediately, do it the next hour, the next day. Whenever it is, trust me, people will appreciate it. Even if they don’t ask you that. They will appreciate somebody. It’s a beautiful thing when you apologize and nobody’s even asked you to apologize. That’s the ideal form of apology.

Gary S:
Absolutely.

Warwick F:
But have grace with yourself realize it’s a tense time and we are going to snap a bit and stuff will happen. It is related to something else we talked about an earlier podcast is, obviously, we have to do some of the things to reduce stress. Whether it’s prayer and meditation, taking a walk, listening to music, various tips we’ve mentioned earlier. There are ways that we can reduce stress, but ultimately, even if we do all those things, we still snap, and we still need grace. So yeah, grace begins at home. That’s the first step of grace anyway.

Gary S:
Yeah, and it’s again, similar to the overall Crucible Leadership idea that you have to understand yourself. If you’ve had a crucible experience, you have to forgive yourself for your failure, you have to learn the lessons of that, you have to find a way to move beyond whatever it is in your crucible experience that you lay on yourself in order to then understand how you were refined by your crucible experience, understand how you are designed and what your vision can be. And then to turn that vision into reality. All of that whole step, what we call the refinement cycle in Crucible Leadership begins with self-analysis and having grace and having tolerance for other people in times of crisis and anxiety, starts with having grace for yourself.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And if you can have grace for yourself and forgive yourself for snapping, that I think makes it a little easier in some ways to have grace and tolerance for others. Recognize your own failings. Recognize the log in your own eyes, so to speak. You want other people to have grace with you. Well, similar to tolerance, we need to have grace with others, we need to be understanding. Those we love, we know what their hot buttons are, we know what they’re fearful of. So when they snap at something, it’s like, “Okay, I get it.” They may be fearful about providing for the family or fearful about the kids or fearful about an aged parent that they’re not able to visit or a cousin. There’s all sorts of things that we can be stressed about. And so, understanding what that is in others, also helps showing grace.

Warwick F:
It reminds me of something that we have spoken of is this saying, “Treat other people the way you would like to be treated”, which is the so-called golden rule that happens to be the words of Jesus but the concept none the less whether you’re a person of faith or not. That’s really the key. The core of grace is treat other people the way you want to be treated. That’s huge. Showing grace to others will help reduce … there can be a cycle of stress and antagonism. And the more that we show grace to each other, the more that we can break the cycle of antagonism, which left to its own devices can get pretty ugly.

Gary S:
Right. Hopefully, you heard that point listener. The idea of having grace with others breaks the cycle of anxiety, fear, tension and then somebody says this or somebody butts heads here or to go back to my analogy about bumper cars, you stop really bumping into each other at high velocity when one of you raises their hand first and in basketball lingo says, “I’ll take the foul.” Right? When one of you says I will extend grace to you even though you don’t “deserve it,” I will extend grace to you because we both deserve it in the sense of having our relationship restored.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I love that bumper car image you use Gary because, with bumper cars at least they have some rubber edge around them. But-

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
… let’s imagine you’ve got two cars coming at each other. These days, even a minor fender bender costs thousands of dollars, it’s unbelievable. But if both of you are going 50, 60 miles an hour head on collision, that’s what a total of 100 miles an hour at impact or something, massive damage will be done. And so what tends to happen is the cycle of reaction without grace and tolerance, it can build up and you can say something or do something that not only will you regret, it could take days, or maybe even months to undo. You can say sorry, but you can’t take it back. Words can really hurt.

Warwick F:
And so you don’t want to have a major car accident that cost the equivalent of thousands and thousands and weeks or more to heal. That’s why the easiest thing is avoid the big train wreck, avoid the big car wreck, get out of the cycle of antagonism because you say something that’s really unkind. Even if you say sorry, the words are out there, especially with those we love, they really damage to the core. You just don’t want to even get to DEFCON 5, whatever it is, you just want to stay out of the nuclear war zone. It’s not worth it.

Gary S:
And I was going to save this toward the end. But since you just talked about the destructive power of words, in that conflict cycle, I have a quote that I dug up about grace from Elie Wiesel, the concentration camp survivor and author. And this is so powerful to me, but it’s about the power of words as grace, words extended in grace and this is what he said. Listen to the power of this. “Words can sometimes in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.” Words themselves can attain the quality of deeds. Kind words, in times of stress and conflict and anxiety can be just as powerful as acts of kindness, as things that we do to help each other that are tangible. Our words can take flesh, if you will, and they can lead to true healing as if we performed an act of kindness for someone. That to me, from someone who’s been through what he’s been through is an extremely powerful endorsement of how words uttered in grace, have great impact.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely Gary. That is very profound. Words of grace can have a profound impact. Just I think as we’ve said before, we may be physically distant, but we’re not necessarily don’t have to be socially distant. And so just calling a friend and maybe you have an elderly parent or elderly friend, maybe there’s somebody that’s shut in with, cancer and they have preexisting condition and all, and they’re at the most risk of coronavirus. People already, health has been compromised. Just calling to say, “Hey, how are you? How are you doing?” Just listening and maybe taking their minds off what they’re going through. And maybe it’s talking about sports or whatever it is that nobody can watch anymore, but maybe recalling some favorite baseball game you went to and wasn’t that fun and whatever it is. Those are conversations of grace. Words of grace that can be healing and can definitely reduce stress. And I think that is so profound.

Gary S:
Yeah, and the idea too that, when we’re in conflict and stress, and we’ve done things, we snapped at our wives or we snapped at a co-worker we’ve not, as the Harvard Business Review story talked about where we’re grumpy on a video call. When we’ve done those things we tend, most of us if we’re honest deep down in our hearts, we know that we were a bit off base, we know we’ve done it. And for someone to offer you a word of grace as you’re dealing with that guilt or that shame, or that, “Oh, geez, I shouldn’t have done that.” When someone offers and extends you unmerited favor, unmerited courteous goodwill. That is an act in and of itself, because it releases you from the bondage you feel for having lost your cool.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I think that’s true. When we do those things extend grace, it definitely reduces stress, increases tolerance and just as a harsh word can generate a forest fire so the word of grace can be just like cool, refreshing water that just lowers the temperature. Both are power. One’s far more productive, and the other is far more destructive.

Gary S:
Right? There’s one more tip Warwick that is a summary tip that you had. And all of these things listener by the way, if you go to crucibleleadership.com. Warwick’s got a blog there where he discusses this very topic about how grace and tolerance are the antidote to anxiety and stress. But the last point in that blog, let’s share that with the listeners now.

Warwick F:
Yeah, the last tip was, it’s helpful to channel your energy in productive ways. One of the things we talked about having grace and understanding for each other reduces stress. But rather than being fixated on, “When am I going to get out of my house? When am I going to get to work?” Try and channel it in productive ways. Maybe there are some business plans you can work on, maybe something that you didn’t have a chance to do and so focus on that, if it’s your business, when things open up, how you take it to the next level? Even if you’ve been laid off. Okay, well, maybe I’d been on this treadmill for a while. Am in the ideal career track? Maybe there’s another career track I could pursue. Use that time, both from a work perspective and a home perspective.

Warwick F:
I know Gary, you’ve shared that you’ve got kids at home, high school, and you’ve been able to use that time to have some fun family time. You came up with some creative ideas, I think that maybe you and your wife wouldn’t have necessarily had time to.

Gary S:
Right. We were going to take a traditional spring break vacation. And we live in Wisconsin and we were going to go to Minneapolis and we were going to visit some friends there, some family there. So we had two tickets bought and the Airbnb all lined up, and then the shutdown hit and we couldn’t go. We had a couple of choices, right? It was stressful and it was anxiety filled. And we could have just said, “Oh, dang it,” and buried our heads in the sand like some people do in crucible experiences. And we decided, “Okay, let’s do a shelter-in-place, Spring Break vacation with the kids. And let’s take advantage of this time.”

Gary S:
To your point Warwick, about channeling your energy in a productive way. So we had themed days throughout how much of that vacation we were going to take. One day it was game day, where we played a bunch of board games of different stripes. I have to say this for the record, I won at Monopoly so I was very happy with that day. But we had a movie night one day, we cooked dinners. And since then, since even that spring break at home, we have established a routine where we every week we set a schedule where one of us there’s four of us, myself, my wife, and my two stepchildren, we each cook dinner one night. We pick whatever we want to cook, we make it and the one who’s either not a parent or not a kid who’s not cooking is the one who has to do the dishes that night too. So we found ways to build relationship, to show grace for each other, to find constructive and productive things to do to build harmony, which is the exact opposite of conflict and stress.

Warwick F:
Yeah, the beauty about playing games together, which we did recently too. I’ve three adult kids in their ’20s and they’re all with us at the moment. It produces fun and laughter. And yeah, it’s a way of actually bringing people together where normally, we’re running off to activities, whether it’s high school sports or work, or friends or whatever else we’re all doing, and so we’re spending far more time. So that’s really trying to turn a negative into a positive. And how can I use this time at home productively both from a professional work perspective, but also a family perspective?

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Try to write make a challenge an opportunity. That’s also part of the Crucible Leadership way of thinking. Channel crucibles into opportunities.

Gary S:
Right. One of the other definitions, it’s not Webster’s definition, but one definition that we could hang on grace and tolerance is turning negative situations into positive situations. You don’t need grace for someone if a situation is wholly positive. If there’s a negative aspect to it, that’s where grace needs to manifest itself. That’s where tolerance needs to manifest itself. So your words Warwick, about turning negatives into positives is a great definition for what grace and tolerance are all about.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Grace and tolerance, they help build relationships. Unmerited favor is by most people is greatly appreciated. Doing things for a neighbor, doing unplanned for things with family, coworkers, calling somebody up, having a video call. A neighbor called me up a couple days ago and no agenda other than, “Hey Warwick. How are you doing?”

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
I said, “Wow! That was cool.” There’s opportunities to actually build relationships, as you say, to make a positive out of the negative in these stressful times.

Gary S:
Yeah. So we’ve talked listener, so far about the theory, the 30,000 foot level over what grace and tolerance are and why they’re important to extend to each other, what the drawbacks are of not doing that. Warwick’s walked us through some excellent tips about how we can find and offer grace and tolerance to each other. And Warwick, as we get to the point where I like to say it’s time to begin to land the plane. It would be worthwhile, I think, to discuss with listeners. Why do we do this? At the end of the day, what are the benefits? We’ve both received grace in myriad ways from myriad people. What does it feel like? What is the benefit to being a recipient of grace? Why is it worth this effort? Why is it worth the decision? It’s not a pill you take. It’s a commitment you make. Why is it worth that commitment?

Warwick F:
I keep coming back to just, we live in this world of such judgmentalism such intolerance. Everybody thinks they’re right. I think everybody else is either wrong or evil. And this is really before the coronavirus hit. So there’s an opportunity here as we’re all stressed out, and we’re talking about showing grace and tolerance to each other. If when we get out of this coronavirus pandemic that we’re in, if we were actually able to live in a world where people would make a choice, make a commitment to try to show grace and tolerance to people who are different than them. Maybe it’s different religion, race, political party. Not assuming that anybody that’s different than you, or believes differently than you are evil.

Warwick F:
If just like a spark and light off a wildfire and devastate a forest, maybe a few sparks of grace and tolerance as those of us who make a commitment and a choice to do that with others, that can also spread. And maybe people can see some examples of once in a while, you’ll see maybe two politicians, Republican, Democrat, left, right. And they say, “We pretty much disagree on every issue you can possibly think of, we pretty much never ever vote. But he or she is my friend. He or she is my buddy and I love and I respect them, even though we pretty much never agree on a thing.” Those are role models of grace and tolerance, those are models where they might disagree, but they don’t impugn the other person’s character or motives.

Warwick F:
You can have good motives and good character, and believe differently on certain issues. So that’s why the more we do this, the more hopefully our world become a little less intolerant and a little bit more tolerant and a little bit more full of grace. And who of us wouldn’t want to live in a world that was more full of grace and tolerance? Isn’t that more fun? Isn’t that less stressful a world to live in? That is within our power, if we would just start and those ripples can then become greater and greater and maybe the ripples will grow into maybe tidal wave is a bit optimistic but a bigger wave perhaps, that would be a wonderful goal. A wonderful dream, maybe a wonderful ideal to strive for.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And it’s true I think, that you really don’t have a chance to move beyond a crucible, title and podcast, if you don’t have grace for yourself, if you don’t receive grace from others, and if you don’t extend grace to others, is that a fair statement?

Warwick F:
Absolutely, no question.

Gary S:
Well, we have reached that time in our podcast, where the landing gear is down. My seatbelt is fasted, so we’re ready to land the plane. Let me leave you listener with some takeaways I think that came from this discussion that Warwick and I have had today. The first one would be that grace and tolerance are not pills you take but decisions you make. Why do you make those decisions so as not to degrade relationships and professional productivity? How do we do it? How to We make those decisions and those commitments? Well, as I read at the top of the show as Harvard Business Review says, “We do that by leaning into compassion, empathy and kindness.” That’s takeaway number one.

Gary S:
Takeaway number two is the same about grace and tolerance as it is about Crucible Leadership, about bouncing back from your crucible. And that is do a self-audit. Why are you feeling like you’re feeling? Is it fair that you’re feeling this way? Is it fair to others? Are there other perspectives that may be more true, that may offer more insight for you on your journey? Like bouncing back from your crucible, the journey starts with self-reflection. From there, you can build a life of grace and tolerance just like from there in your crucible experience and bouncing back from that, you can build a life of significance after doing some self-reflection.

Gary S:
And then the last thing I think listener, we want to leave you with is check out Warwick’s blog on crucibleleadership.com where he unpacks some of the tips, all the tips that we talked about here today and I’m going to run through them. After doing an internal audit, here are five other things that you can do that are listed and unpacked in the blog. Admit your fears and anxieties to others, be flexible, have grace with yourself, have grace with others, and channel your energy in some productive ways.

Gary S:
Thank you listener for spending time with us today on Beyond the Crucible. As always, we appreciate the opportunity to offer what we hope is hope and healing through your own experience in not just what’s going on right now with COVID-19. But what’s going on in those crucibles in your life that you have gone through or maybe going through right now.

Gary S:
We have a little favor to ask of you, on the podcast app that you’re listening to this show on right now. We would ask If you click Subscribe, that does a couple of things for us. It allows us to reach more people with these kinds of conversations and also the interviews that we do with people like yourself who’ve been through crucibles, and people who have perspectives on how to help you get beyond those crucibles. It also will ensure for you that you won’t miss any episodes that we have in the future.

Gary S:
So until we’re together next time, thank you again for being with us. And remember this, that crucible experiences are very real and very painful. They can be very full of stress, full of anxiety, they can knock you off balance, but they are not. We hope you’ve learned in listening to our podcasts and in following Warwick on Crucible Leadership. Crucible experiences aren’t the end of your story. They are in fact, if you dig in, if you self-reflect, as we’ve talked about today, they can be the start of a new chapter in your story. And that chapter can be the most rewarding of your life because what it points toward, what it leads to, is something we all should pursue and that is a life of significance.

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