Ten Characteristics of a Gracious Person

Gracious … Now I like that word.  Not a Terrell Owens or
Randy Moss word.  No, this word is reserved for people who recognize
that they are privileged to receive what they have been given.  A
gracious person is wonderful just to be around.  So what is a gracious


  • A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise.
  • A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another
    Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary.  (And
    please … don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to
    escape responsibility by saying, "I was only joking.")
  • A gracious person is always thanking others.  Do you go through an entire day without thanking another?
  • A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation.  Someone else has something to offer.
  • A gracious person doesn’t try to play "one up-manship."  ("That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!")
  • A gracious person pays attention to people.  Sometimes
    people come away from such conversations saying, "He made me feel like
    I was the most important person at that moment."
  • A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate.  He
    doesn’t just say what is on his mind or whatever he might be thinking.
    (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever
    fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)
  • A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others.  "Would you like a cup of coffee?  What about a coke?  Can I get you a newspaper while I’m out?"  etc.
  • A gracious person understands that she is not indispensableYou’ve
    seen this person.  She desires constant attention.  She has a way of
    constantly focusing most any conversation back on herself.  There is a
    humility in realizing that you are dispensable.
  • A gracious person constantly points out the good that he sees.   Maybe
    you are visiting a friend who lives in another place.  Instead of
    pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are
    constantly finding things that are good.  "This cafe has outstanding
    peach pie!  That was delicious."  "I just love the way you have planted
    your garden.  It is beautiful!"  Gracious people look for the good.

This is actually a post from October 2005.  Why post it again?  Because of a few comments that have been made regarding this piece.  This was published in the Waco Tribune Herald shortly after it was posted on my blog.  One gentleman told me a few weeks later that someone had placed the newspaper article on the wall in the rehab center at nearby Providence Hospital.  A few weeks ago, a local anesthesiologist told me that it had been posted on the door of the operating room.  He said, "I’ve read it several times before going in."  An older gentleman in our church died of cancer in the last year.  Before his death, he sent a copy of this piece to each of his grandchildren.


Why this response?  I believe that in so many of us, there is a genuine hunger to experience the beauty of graciousness.  After all, it is nothing more than grace lived outAnd — that grace originates in the heart of God.


(I’m curious, what would you add to this list of ten?  I suspect you could add another characteristic of a gracious person that might be helpful to us all.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “Ten Characteristics of a Gracious Person

  1. Jim:I don’t mean to be argumentative – it’s actually a quality I come by naturally (in the flesh?) – but as I read through your post here’s what happened.  For nine of the ten qualities of graciousness listed, exceptions from the life of Christ popped into my head.  By the criteria and definitions in this post, Christ was not always a gracious person. And I don’t think He was, at least as we define "gracious."  But He was always loving and called us to be loving, too.  Sometimes that can sound like a lack of grace or graciousness to the other person, but that doesn’t mean it actually is. I’m not suggesting that being gracious is a negative trait or quality, only that (a) we need to be careful how we define it and (b) that we don’t elevate it above love – in fact, we shouldn’t prioritize such qualities at all.  Love encompasses graciousness and, at times, moderates and modifies it.  The most loving – but not necessarily the most gracious – thing we can do for one another is to speak the truth in love.  It may be perceived as harsh or judgmental, i.e., as ungracious, but that doesn’t mean it’s not loving.But maybe I’m splitting hairs.

  2. Jim – Great list! I would add that the essence of being gracious is being grace-full – extending grace to others.  In fact, the epitome of graciousness is to be kind and compassionate to another when they are treating you with anger and hostility.

  3. So Dr.Mike, just because you can find an example of Jesus acting some other way at a certain time – does this mean he acted that way All the time and that he never could have been described by Jim’s list? Or is it possible that he may have been exactly like the list with most people – but knowing our hearts – acted differently when people needed it?
    Keith m 

  4. Jim:A list worthy of repeating for those of us who had not discovered your blog back then. I might add that a gracious person really doesn’t care who gets credit, so long as the job is done. Gracious people don’t keep score. 

  5. Keithm:If – IF – I have a place in the Body of Christ then it is to function at times as the inner ear: I am prone (as I admitted above) to adduce the other or complementary side of a discussion for the sake of balance.  I did not say and am not saying that Christ never acted in a gracious manner.  I am saying that love/loving encompasses graciousness and goes beyond it.  <br> Why are so many Christians upset whenever they are challenged to broaden or be more comprehensive in their thinking?  I just don’t get it and, quite frankly, believe this dispostion or reaction to be quite unattractive to those outside the faith.  Jim, if memory serves me correctly, has never rebuked me for my comments and sometimes finds my input to be even helpful.  If he tells me to get lost, I will respect his right to do so; until then, I will continue to contribute what I believe to be helpful and necessary.

  6. This behavior of being gracious is really missed in our society. " I am gracious for your post." The attitude of not even a "thank you" for holding the door for someone is out there in todays world. We deserve it. Right? I feel gracious for what Christ did for us. I am thankful for the ways you bring His message to us.  Thank You.

  7. Mike,I appreciate your comment.  As usual, I gain much from reading all of these comments.  Often, I am reminded of my own need to be clearer.Of course you are correct in what you said.  There is "another side."   I am addressing only one piece.  In my thinking, I am responding to Christians who are arrogant, rude,  obnoxious, and a general pain to be around.  Somehow, they have not allowed Christ through his Spirit to transform their relationships.Yet, Paul understands grace to impact human relationships (2 Cor. 8:1).  Jesus speaks of a life of dong something kind (gracious) for someone who may not deserve it (Luke 6:32-36).As you note (very well) this does not negate the need to "speak the truth in love."  I would actually see this as an act of graciousness.  Especially true if I am motivated by grace to speak to this person and if my objective is not to destroy him but to point him toward Jesus.Thanks Mike 

  8. Keith m–Thanks for your comment.  Your comment caused me to give some thought to what I posted and how I said it.  I also reread the comment you referred to.  All of this really helps me think through this.  Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. Perry,You mention something very important.  I suspect you are correct in that a spirit of entitlement has a way of causing some of us to behave without gratitude.  As a result, graciousness is not really a part of our lives and does not come through in the way we relate to people. 

  10. Jim:  Thanks for the encouragement.  Too often I feel and fear I am one of those "Christians who are arrogant, rude,  obnoxious, and a general pain to be around."  (A friend says I am "caustic, abrasive, and arrogant," but only when I disagree with him. Otherwise he thinks I’m spot on.)   Perhaps I am all of the above.  Of all the above, however, arrogance concerns and troubles me most: it is the opposite of humility, the hallmark of Christlikeness. 

  11. Thanks Jim, I always enjoy the blog.
    Dr. Mike – sorry I only had time to make my short comment and diid not see your response until late this afternoon – so I don’t know if you’ll see this or not. I am sorry if what I said seemed to be a rebuke rather than what I intended it to be – simply a question – and I certainly did not think that you should be censored by Jim or anyone else. I responded to your comments at a surface level and expected your response of "I am not saying that Christ never acted in a gracious manner."
    I completly agree that love encompasses being gracious – now my own experiences color what I am about to say – – Since we are not divine or anywhere close to it, I am not so sure that love excludes being gracious just because we believe that the truth must be spoken in love.
    Be blessed – Keithm

  12. If this was accompanied by relevant scripture for each bullet it would make a fantastic devotional. As the comments above point out, some might need a bit of tweaking to line up more clearly with the verses. I’m guessing this would be a fair amount of work, unless you have the new testament memorized, which I don’t.Still, I am going to keep this on my list of things to do, albeit slowly. More later…

  13. Jim,  I think a gracious person is one who refuses to be embroiled in a debate. I say, embroiled as opposed to engaged. Talking something out in a friendly away, even if in the end there are still differences, is surely the goal. And ending, not trying to "win", but with respect for each other after letting our positions be known. Something like that.
    Thanks for the fine thoughts and examples. Great post, and glad others have latched on to it.

  14. thought you might be interested in reading this, one of the girls’ had this up, wonder which one it is, assuming its ….hope this makes us more gracious of other peoples’ feelings’  me i like the #2 (to be tolerant of myself & others @work) & #9

  15. I think the art of being gracious to each other requires us to be lifted up and beyond ourselves. We know that cognitively but what I love about it, and why it’s a struggle, is because we can’t do it alone. I love that I can’t be gracious, loving or forgiving without God. I am deeply grateful that he has shown me even when I have extended myself to another, I still may have done it with selfish intent. And I can think of a smaller handful of times when he has truly ‘moved me’ to extend grace to another, and I experience the difference. Striving for less me, more Him. Like Mother Teresa said, “God has not called me to be successful; he called me to be faithful.” Pressing on~

    • Carmel, I love your first sentence. Being gracious (or perhaps expressing grace in any other form) really does call for something that goes beyond our won selves. God is certainly merciful in his provision.

  16. My mother often speaks if God’s Grace. This conversation clarifies Grace for me. I love Carmel’s comment that God enables us to have graciousness. It is spiritual and takes a sacrifice of self and/or of our worldly ways. I thank you all for the truthful discussion on grace. I constantly admonish my son and I pray that he displays the characteristics described in the post.