Why Is Grace the Opposite of Stress?

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Living a Life of Ease Might Not Be Easy

Grace is the absence of everything that
indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity.
William Hazlitt
Grace is the opposite of stress. One meaning of grace refers to gracefulness, elegance, ease, and fluidity of motion similar to swans and ice skaters. (The following excerpt is from Stress Relief That Works.)

Stress and Grace 

Although William Hazlitt's definition of grace doesn't use the word stress, he is describing grace as the opposite of stress. Instead of writing that "grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity," he could have written "grace is the absence of stress."

The word grace has a range of meanings in English, originating in its ancestors, the Latin gratia and the Old French grace. The Latin connotations included "favor, esteem, regard, pleasing quality, good will, gratitude." Old French meanings included "pardon, divine grace, mercy; favor, thanks, elegance, virtue." The English word grace inherited all of these wide-ranging definitions from its Latin and Old French ancestors. What meaning of grace can best enable you to turn stressed-out into peaceful?

The connotation of grace as favor is the meaning used by Christian theologians to develop a theology of grace. In Christian theology, grace refers to God's forgiveness and acceptance of you despite your sins. This is the connotation behind such statements such as: "There but for the grace of God go I." This definition makes grace an undeserved gift you receive rather than a quality you possess. This is not the perspective of grace that I intend here.

Rather, let's focus on the particular connotation of grace as a pleasing quality. This meaning of grace refers to gracefulness, elegance, ease, and fluidity of motion. This is the grace of the elegant figure skaters who dazzle you with what looks like effortless flow as they glide across the ice.

This is also the meaning of grace in Hans Christian Andersen's well-known story, "The Ugly Duckling." Of all of the birds, the white swan is the one most known for its gracefulness as it glides through the water, with its long neck arched ever so elegantly.


One of the primary qualities of grace is ease. Ease is not just about moving gracefully, ease is also about living gracefully. Does this mean that living with ease is easy? 

In contemporary English usage—as frequently happens—the original distinctions between words got lost in ordinary usage. Ease and easy both derived from Old French with different connotations. Ease meant "mitigate, alleviate, relieve from pain or care." Easy meant "without difficulty." Ease describes a state of mind—living life without pain or worry. Easy describes activity—living life with minimal effort.

This distinction demonstrates why you can live a life of ease that is not easy. Although most of us want life to be easy, most accomplishments worth doing are far from easy. Ease is often the result of hard work. In the case of ice skaters, the fluidity of motion and gracefulness that look so effortless result from years of dedicated practice. Ease on the ice means getting up early, day after day, to practice in cold rinks before going off to school. It means working on the same moves again and again to reach mastery. None of it is inherently easy.

This fluidity of motion and gracefulness produces what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named flow in his extraordinary book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. He defines flow as:

The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

[Original Post November 16, 2016]

If you are feeling stressed-out and want to read the whole book, Stress Relief That Works: How To Think Your Way from Stressed-Out to Peaceful is available on Amazon in either Kindle or paperback versions. Click Buy Now From Amazon to get your copy right away! 

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