Choosing Grace

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on April 05, 2021 # Lifestyle

The chances are that when you hear the word “irritating,” some imagery comes to mind. That word causes most of us to think about a person, situation, or obstacle. I’m not special and I’m not suggesting that I have a significantly harder situation due to my disability, but I am suggesting that people with disabilities are prone to some additional irritation than our able-bodied counterparts. See: inaccessible public spaces, rude or uncomfortable comments surrounding my disability, and an unfair stereotype to overcome.

This time, I’m focusing on the interpersonal irritations that are, it seems, inevitable to people with disabilities. To add an extra consideration to the rudeness-phenomenon, I’m a person with a visible disability, trying to live my life like “normal” and stay active in my community; I love to meet people and I get out a lot, so I pay the price, albeit cheap, by having to deal with those comments and assumptions. Like I’m sure you can imagine – that price was tripled when I was dating.

Sometimes people just don’t know how to act. While my use of a wheelchair doesn’t feel like a big deal (at all) to me, it is an issue for some. In the case of many of the men I went on dates with, for example, my disability was reason enough for them to lose their manners, their chivalry and, in some cases, their attraction. That came as a tiny bummer and wake-up call to me but, once I established my self-confidence and relaxed fully into my disability, my response was more “ok, have a nice life” than feeling down on my condition. Dating with a disability is not for the very sensitive or faint of heart, that’s for certain. I could write a whole book on this topic (and I have!).

Even when I got to the point of total confidence and a loaded response (“have a nice life”) to people who don’t accept my disability head-on, that didn’t mean I grew immune to the frustration of those situations. Life is unfair, people discriminate, and the world, in many cases, isn’t designed to accommodate a disability. It’s irritating and that irritation is justified, but is it productive? Just because we have a reason to feel irritated, should we?Kristin and her fiancé holding their dog

No, of course not: it’s not productive and that irritation doesn’t hurt anyone except you. My answer, however easy to say and difficult to execute as it is, is to show grace. Pass that grace out to yourself, other people who don’t understand your situation, and the world who won’t adapt to your needs.

You have more years ahead of you than what’s in front of you right now and, chances are, it’s not worth burning a bridge. Instead of getting angry or climbing your metaphorical podium about issues that further accentuate our difference from the rest of society, how about we try to assimilate? Instead of getting mad at people who treat us as “others” or calling someone an “ableist” for their ignorance around a disability topic, let’s give people some grace.

For the most part, people are trying to be better and they’re not out to get us. Save yourself some of the stress of irritation and be nice to people, instead of alienating them.

Sometimes, they just don’t know how to act. You might be their first-ever exposure to disability and/or they didn’t consider you fully before saying something, and that’s okay. Everyone has their own life and their well-being to consider, and it’s a big task to take on the needs of another person on top of that. Be understanding and interact from a place of love, not a place of defense. Our label as a minority, “other,” or whatever you want to call it, means that it’s especially important to treat others with grace and show kindness.

Just like you had to figure out how to handle your own disability, people need a chance to figure out how to accommodate you. Don’t lose sight of the beauty of those willing to try. Show some grace to those people, and don’t burn those bridges. You might need to walk across one later.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.