Grace: Drilling Down to Core Values


Writing about grace was a personal challenge, because it forced me to drill down deep enough to identify the essence of what is important to me and how I manifest it in my life. I invite you to try it; it’s not that easy.

A lot of things are important to me — marriage and family, material well-being, health, humanity and our planet. And there are a host of other things that also have personal importance, but are less central — adventure, travel, sensual pleasures and intellectual stimulation. I’m sure you can come up with a good-sized list of things that are important to you.

I tackled the problem by thinking of people whom I have used as models in my own evolution. Five people stood out, three of them well known…

Martin Luther king was a powerful, inspiring leader who changed the face of America. His power was not derived from a strong ego. Rather, his power came from his center. He had vision, “a dream.”

Mahatma Gandhi was another powerful, inspiring leader, who non-violently led his people out of colonial rule. He too had a vision of freedom.

We owe the beginnings of universal medical care in Canada to another man of vision, Tommy Douglas, who acted from core beliefs about the greater good.

You don’t know the other two people, but they too served as important models for me.

Ernie Kendall was the science teacher in the small town where I attended high school. He taught well and he told good stories. He was always kind and always interested in his students. I never saw him angry or judgmental. He built his own house and apparently had a long, happy marriage until his wife died. I visited him a few years ago when he was 100. Although he was deep into dementia, he lit up; he remembered me and my brothers instantly from 50 years earlier.

The last model I’ll mention is my late mother, Doreen. We were very poor, especially after my father died when I was eight. Mother supported us four boys by taking in sewing. We grew vegetables, and uncles provided meat from their hunting. Yet in spite of the hardship, mother was almost always cheerful, frequently inspiring, and always intellectually alive. She believed in people.

She introduced me to the writings of Norman Vincent Peele and Dale Carnegie, even though I couldn’t read. She believed in me, in spite of our humble beginnings and my severe learning disability.

When she died after living only eight years in that town, the schools and stores closed for her funeral. (I was 16.) To my knowledge, that had never happened before and has never happened since in that town.

As I reflected on how these five different people could be such important models for me, I realized they all derived their power, not from their egos, but from their centers. Their core values fueled their ability to influence and benefit others. What they modeled for me were gratitude, reverence for life, enthusiasm, altruism and celebration. In other words they lived their lives with grace.

Along with everything else I do, or perhaps resulting in everything else I do, I attempt to live my life with grace. I had good teachers. Thank you.

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

1 thought on “Grace: Drilling Down to Core Values

  1. Hello Dr. Neill,

    I was married for 17 years to an alcoholic. I find with myself that when you want to know the answer of why you pick someone with this illness, you do find out. Self search! The answer is knowing your own inner energies and understanding yourself is HUGE in the healing process. In my own case, I had a very controlling father and continually picked that until I realized. It was an epiphany when that came to me. Then the healing began.

    Without understanding where these behaviors come from, I think there is little hope of ever getting completely healed. When you find the answer though, becoming whole is possible.

    Thank you for this website. I hope others will use it as a tool as I did. I wish I would have found you 10 years ago. My journey to recovery would have been shorter. 🙂


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