Before Jeremy and I married, we read two recommended books on achieving a strong, successful marriage. Five years later one concept still stands out for both of us  — Always believe the other person has your best intentions in mind.

Simply put, show your spouse grace.

We’ve made a point of doing that for each other over the years, particularly when one of us has had a bad day or isn’t feeling well. No need to pile on criticism and stress when someone’s chips are down, right?

Last week, I was reminded how rarely grace is extended  — even between neighbors, lifelong friends and those with whom we live, work and play in this great community.

In at least three separate instances I watched as people tore others apart with vicious comments, bitter replies and indignant, misinformed opinions to stories published on The Blackshear Times social media page. They shared The Times’ news stories with snide, hurtful comments and insinuations, passing judgment on the individuals those stories covered.

Try as I might, I can’t think of any particular motive they may have had to do so.  Enjoyment in the misery of others, perhaps? Who knows?

By midweek I was so disenchanted with folks I unloaded my frustrations on my husband in a colorful rant. I don’t ascribe to the philosophy of my jaded journalism professor Dr. Jay: A well-placed vulgarity is an art form he used to say. But goodness knows I was hardly holding the four-letter words back. 

I’m pretty sure Jeremy’s ears burned.

He turned the car around and headed for Chick-fil-A (my happy place), showing me grace when I didn’t deserve it.

That’s when it struck me. 

Why don’t people show each other grace anymore, I asked?

Truth hurts. It can strip people of their dignity in an instant. Cold, hard facts leave people raw, vulnerable, their lives shattered in a moment by the weight of truth.

No one knows that fact, or feels the heaviness of it, more than a journalist. We make a living in laying out the truth for folks. We’re merely the messengers of course, but we see firsthand the beauty of truth exposed, and the devastation it can cause, too. 

Often we bear the emotional brunt of people’s responses to the message. They need someone to blame, and we’re an easy target. It’s ok. We’ve got broad shoulders.

On the good days, we steel ourselves for the backlash, and do our best to suit up with compassion, grace and empathy. We’re well aware that if we do our job right, someone’s gonna be mad as h-e-double hockey sticks.

On the bad days? Well, we rant a bit at our spouses and then head to Chick-fil-A.

Here’s the point: Grace isn’t hard to extend. We’re not superheroes. If we can give people grace, you can, too.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for 10 seconds, and you’ll wish you hadn’t been so quick to cast judgement. If you still can’t muster up an ounce of grace or compassion for someone else’s plight, just follow Thumper the Rabbit’s advice: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.

That one has served me well for years – even before I invested in a marriage book.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.