The State of Grace Document
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Can you image what would happen if we lived in a world where human beings
deeply loved, cherished, and looked after one another? Where instead of
fighting, blaming, and competing with one another, we listened deeply,
shared honestly, and joined together wholeheartedly to live fuller, happier,
Miracles, of course, would happen, daily. Insurmountable problems, most of
which have been caused by our lack of sensitivity to one another and the
world we live in, we would vanish. And humanity, finally able to tap its
collective wisdom, inventiveness, and innate goodwill, would set sail for
unspeakably wonderful places.
Some day, perhaps, humanity as a whole will adopt "love one another" as its
prime directive. Until then, that job falls to those of us who have realized
that learning to love one another is one of the most important things we can
do -- for ourselves, for each, and for our planet.
And to help us out, here's a practical suggestion from Tom Atlee, of The
Co-Intelligence Institute (http://www.co-intelligence.org). Called "The
State of Grace Document," I thought many of you would appreciate Tom's post
(and Maureen McCarthy's discovery) as much as I did...
--- David Sunfellow
We work together
In a state of grace.
Our strengths are
The gifts we bring.
Our weaknesses are strengths, too.
My weakness invites
Your infusion of wisdom,
As yours does mine.
--- Marie Knapp
THE STATE OF GRACE DOCUMENT
From Tom Atlee
Some months ago I ran across what I viewed as an interesting innovation.
The more I reflected on it, however, the more I realized it was not only
profoundly co-intelligent but potentially revolutionary. It is called The
State of Grace Document. It is the brain-heart-spirit child of Maureen
McCarthy of the consulting firm Engaging the Soul @ Work.
The State of Grace Document is an agreement between two people (or any two
entities, including groups, corporations, and countries) co-created to
sustain a high quality of relationship -- "a state of grace" -- between
The State of Grace Document stands in stark contrast to that ubiquitous
document -- The Contract -- which is an agreement to ensure that interested
parties comply with certain mutually understood expectations. Contracts
usually include an explicit or implicit threat of punishment for failure or
betrayal, backed by the power of the legal system.
Contracts and laws are vital to hold together a society of self-interested
entities seeking alliances in their competition for limited resources in
situations that may involve considerable dishonesty, alienation and
temptation. Contract constitute an effort to nail relationships down so
they don't get blown away by some gust of social entropy.
A State of Grace Document, on the other hand, is a resource for lifting
relationships above the storms of social entropy into the realm of vibrant
co-creativity. It doesn't nail relationships down. It provides them with a
radiantly alive center from which to continually co-create themselves.
THE FORM OF A STATE OF GRACE DOCUMENT
A State of Grace Document has a deceptively simple structure. Its one to
three pages emerge from an in-depth conversation in which the following are
1. A statement from each party on what it is about the other party and the
relationship that they find so valuable -- "the 'story' of the individuals
as they see one another while things are going smoothly." Whenever the
conditions described in these statements are present, the relationship is
considered to be in the "state of grace" which inspired its birth. The
purpose of the document and its related conversations is to sustain that
state of grace.
2. An agreement about the length of time the two parties will tolerate a
departure from that state of grace. For a marriage or a close working
relationship, that time period might be an hour or a day. For a less
immediate relationship, such as between business clients, it might be a week
or a month or more.
3. A commitment by both (all) parties that if they are out of their state
of grace, they will come together -- before that agreed-upon time period has
elapsed -- to have a heart-to-heart talk about the state of their
relationship. The aim of that conversation will be to either heal the
relationship into its original state of grace -- or to transform it into a
new state of grace.
There is an assumption here that what is most valuable is not necessarily
the relationship's FORM, but rather its QUALITY, the state of grace. If the
relationship slips out of grace, that may indicate a need to redefine it to
meet new conditions or needs. So the question becomes: What is the NEW
state of grace for that relationship? It may involve a new active vision or
set of expectations. Or it could involve new ways to live out the
satisfying story the relationship began with. It might even involve an
honorable, graceful closure to the active relationship, a friendly
separation. In any case, it is a renewed state of grace.
4. A set of questions that will be addressed by both (all) parties when
they have their heart-to-heart talk. The conversation need not be limited
to these questions, but these questions are designed to stimulate a depth of
engagement with each other and with the current reality of the relationship.
Among the questions suggested by McCarthy:
* What am I afraid of -- including what am I afraid of really saying
* What truths do I need to tell?
* What do I need right now?
* What do we each have to gain by ending this relationship?
* What do we each have to gain by continuing this relationship?
* What part does money play in this situation?
* Have I let you down?
* Is there a power struggle going on between us?
* What do I appreciate most about you?
* What do I have to forgive myself and/or you for?
* Is it time to redefine or redirect this relationship?
* What is the deep down knowing we each have about how this will
eventually end up?
ITS ORIGINS AND VISION
Born through an effort to negotiate a positive divorce with her husband,
State of Grace Documents now shape the majority of McCarthy's significant
relationships, including not only her family and friends, but her business
relationships with major corporate clients. Significantly, some of her
clients are now using State of Grace Documents in their own work.
Regarding her first State of Grace Document with her husband, Zelle, she
"We know as individuals and as a couple we are not only bound to grow and
change, but we crave it. So if change is inevitable, who's to say that our
current set-up will serve us or the world from now until we exit the planet?
With this in mind we sat down one day and created the first State of Grace
"It serves as our commitment, not necessarily to stay together as husband
and wife, but to honor that place of truth and love in one another,
ourselves, the relationship and, in our case, a Higher Power. When we focus
on maintaining a graceful relationship, we don't dance around difficult
conversations, we commit to having them sooner rather than later and thus
relieve any built-up tensions before they get too big and ugly. We come
together from a soulful place and look for ways to remember the love and
respect we have for one another as we work through to a solution... Once I
saw the power of The State of Grace Document between Zelle and I, I began to
create them with my friends, clients and family."
The document sits, on-call, for whenever the relationship hits hard spots.
McCarthy describes its use in her marriage, where the time allotment before
a heart-to-heart conversation is three hours: "If we feel out of a state of
grace, we commit to sitting down within three hours and beginning the
process of finding our way back, even if the conclusion is that the
relationship as we know it is over. For some people three hours is too long,
for others two years is the right amount of time. It depends on your
temperament, style of relating to one another and to what degree you need
alone time before you can calm down enough to have a more loving
She summarizes: "The State of Grace Document is a radical new way to see the
world. It's a tool for those who are searching for a non-litigious way to
resolve a difficult situation. Or in the cases where [we] would never
resort to that, but the pain of a bad ending leaves us exhausted, it's a
remarkable path to peace. It's a concept not yet in practice that will
cause great change in the world when adopted because it addresses the
potential for problems up front in a loving manner. As a society we avoid
saying the marriage could end before the ceremony has begun, the job might
not work out as planned, or the business partnership might not be the best
route as we move forward. Reality says it's all possible, but it seems so
distasteful to acknowledge it. With the State of Grace Document a new and
very elegant approach has been created to address the possibilities, while
keeping the love, honor and integrity intact."
For more information, including sample State of Grace Documents, see her
Maureen K. McCarthy
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