"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Extra Grace? Yes, please. Especially on Facebook.

Ever heard of an EGR? I first learned about EGRs some years ago in small-group leadership training at my Episcopal Church. Our teacher, Father Ron, was a hip, wise, somewhat older priest, not an authoritative father figure--although he was an authority on many things--more like a really cool uncle or family friend who’d traveled the world and learned a few things the hard way. Fr. Ron was very open to sharing both his spiritual and earthly journeys, especially the bits that bring you to your knees and eventually lead to humility.

One of the things we learned from Father Ron was that, as small-group leaders, we could count on having at least one person in our groups of eight or ten who was an EGR—Extra Grace Required; grace being that divine gift God bestows to bless us with patience and other virtues.

Some EGRs talk too much, frequently interrupt, or veer off topic. Some second guess everyone else’s comments, or play Devil’s advocate. Still others sit mutely during group discussion and don’t contribute no matter how much you coax them. Save for the latter, EGRs tend to be needy people who require lots of attention and even more patience, God bless ‘em. Sometimes they are off their meds or non-recovering addicts but, just as often, they’re simply know-it-all pains in the ass like Holly Hunter’s character in the movie Broadcast News."It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room," a colleague says. To which she replies, "No. It's awful."

If you look around, the EGRs are everywhere. They’re at work, school, the grocery store (especially in the parking lot), the movie theater, the neighborhood (don’t tell me there isn’t at least one Gladys Kravitz on your block), and now the EGRs are on Facebook. These are the FBEGRs—pronounced “Ef Beggars.” I know what you’re thinking, but “Ef” (F) stands for Facebook. Yes it does (insert smiley face).

The FBEGRs crave attention from anyone and everyone who will read and respond to their status updates and links. Some FBEGR posters are of a mean-spirited political nature, using name-calling, lies and scare tactics to warn us about the dangers of Candidate X (usually the one I’m voting for). Others settle on a particular societal issue like abortion or homosexuality or even the environment and they beat that horse over and over and over again. I have “unfriended” several of these—not because of their opinions, but because of their outrageously nasty engagement with others. All you have to do is turn on cable news to be assured that there is no longer any such thing as polite civil discourse.

Some of the FBEGRs report (maybe they think it’s Twitter) the same droning, mind-numbing tidbits over and over again. I promise, if I wasn’t moved to comment the first time, I’m probably not going to “like” or comment on your post the third or fourth time, unless it is to yawn or roll my eyes (are there emoticons for those?). When not receiving either enough feedback or the desired feedback, this FBEGR may venture toward TMI—too much information—but more often will post self-pitying, passive-aggressive, cryptic, remarks which appear to be aimed at one or two evil-doers (who, me?), yet there it is, out there for all to see. You “certain someone… you know who you are.”  

I’m done. I just ditched another one. (Boy, did I show her!) I’ve already got enough EGRs in my life, thank you. They're the ones I gladly put up with because I love them dearly--and because I know that sometimes they require extra grace to put up with me as well. Yes, I admit, I can—only on very rare occasions—be a pill. And that’s one way you know who your real friends are. There’s a mutuality and a reciprocity when it comes to family and friendship, even on Facebook. It’s respect you have for others, and hopefully for yourself, by attempting to extend grace rather than require it.

Sadly, I don’t have all the extra grace required to embrace every single social media beggar who's out there grovelling for attention. They say beggars can’t be choosers.  Also, that you can’t choose your family… but, Facebook or otherwise, you can choose your friends. 


  1. Oh my, you have written exactly what I've been thinking for the last year. I am also not a fan of the people who post EVERYWHERE they've been, going to, have thought about going to....... Does anybody enjoy the company they're with or the environment they're in any more? Oh, and one more........photos of food. I never thought a food stylist was a legit job until I saw all those disgusting plates of food posted on FB. Great post.......you got me all riled up :)

  2. Thanks Mary. Good food for thought. I think we all find ourselves in EGRland on occasion.

  3. Anonymous9:56 PM

    I notice a "them" and "us" attitude in your blog, although maybe you didn't intend it to come across that way. It reminds me, though of a metaphor I heard a wise minister use. He noted that ants have different jobs, and they appear unique to each other; but to a human standing above an ant hill, there is not a noticeable difference among them. He likened that to the differences we humans ascribe to each other: that person is more spiritual, that person is more generous, etc. Yet to God, looking down from divine height, are there really any significant differences? Are any of us realy in need of more grace than others from God's point of view? The ant metaphor has been helpful to me in my spiritual journey to help me remember that God loves the person who annoys me as much as God loves me. I view facebook as a cyberministry, where I can extend grace to those who need it, and where I receive grace when I need it. May God grant you grace and peace.

  4. Laura Sroka9:46 AM

    Great insight, Mary!!! I try to keep in mind EGR in my daily life! Except, of course, when I probably am the one interrupting, complaining, etc:) Seriously, what a great lesson to live by. Keep on writin' as you do it so well!!


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