Is Karma Going to Get us, or will Grace Save Us?

Karma is the Hindu and Buddhist concept of cause and effect. It’s like a giant mirror that surrounds us, our thoughts and our actions. Whatever we send out is reflected back at us, often times with more intensity than what we originally sent out. In the Bible this is known as The Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6: New International Version (NIV)

Grace is an unmerited pardoning, courtesy or regeneration of some negative or evil act. In J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, he defines Grace as follows: “In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves.”

Like two sides of a coin we have Karma and we have Grace, in beautiful harmony—or is it disharmony—with each other. Some people see only the opposing principles in these two concepts—karma’s going to bite you but grace is going to protect you— but I see these two concepts as being perfectly in balance with each other, with karma teaching us how to become better people and grace absolving us of the shame and guilt of making these necessary mistakes in the first place.

What Karma Teaches Us

Karma is there to tell us how we should act. Karma is there to get us to think. Karma helps us remember what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot. Karma is there to move us out of a place of judgment and superiority and to put us in a place of understanding and compassion. Karma is the great teacher that shows us the natural consequences of our actions. Karma reflects back our strengths as well as our weaknesses, giving us accurate feedback about ourselves and our soul and guiding us towards better behavior.

What Grace Gives Us

And on the other side of the coin is grace. Grace kicks in and blocks this mirror from reflecting back the darkness that we have sent out into the world, protecting us from our bad behavior and mistakes. Grace is given to us regardless of how terribly we might have behaved and how miserably we might have failed. Grace wipes the slate clean and allows us to begin again and again and again, regardless of how many times or how severely we’ve errored. Grace is given freely to us all, unquestionably and without condition.

The Interaction of Karma and Grace

Without Karma’s lessons we are unable to grow. Lessons that are internalized and felt are the lessons that stick with us on a soul level and change our behavior for good. Following rules without feeling is a hollow experience devoid of passion and belief. The only way for us to grow on a deep, emotional level is to experience our lessons. We must experience joy, pain or darkness in order to grow and learn. We must feel exactly what it is we are sending out before we fully internalize the experience and knowingly choose not to create it any more. We have to error in order to grow.

Yet as we learn and grow we become increasingly more spiritually attuned, meaning that we become more shameful or guilt-ridden over our dark nature and the perceived error of our ways. Instead of drowning in the guilt or the shame of that which we have created, grace steps in as a loving balm to heal our wounds, alleviate our guilt and assuage our shame. Grace is there for us, not to let us off the hook for our bad actions, but to soothe us in the knowledge of the darkness and pain created from our bad actions, allowing us to go on as more enlightened individuals.

The number of errors and mistakes we make isn’t what’s relevant. Everyone make mistakes. What’s relevant is that we feel the full impact of our mistakes, that we fully internalize our actions and the consequences of those actions and that we grow because it. Grace is there as a gift for our learning. Our only choice is whether or not to allow grace to work in our lives.

Grace is unlimited. Grace is freely given. We are all entitled to grace. When we commit to our own progress we commit to learning, growing and feeling the guilt and shame or our mistakes. Like a beautiful, yet unopened package, isn’t it time we commit to receiving grace as well? To commit fully to the peace, happiness and pardoning that has already been given to us?

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