Making Room for Gray in the New Year

Betsy St. Amant Haddox

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published Jan 04, 2024
Making Room for Gray in the New Year

The Lord has the wisdom and sovereignty to be [black and white]. But it’s dangerous for us as Christians to be that way when we’re so easily affected by besetting sin, skewed viewpoints, and selfish desires.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to see things very black and white, which is a bit strange because I can also typically see both sides of any given argument (facepalm). That leads to a lot of internal angst. Who is right? Both can’t be right! Why do both sides of the argument make sense? I’ve figuratively beat my head and my heart against a wall many times over the years, trying to make sense of certain things because I was trying to force them into a box I could understand. A black-and-white striped box of my own making.

But sometimes, the colors need to blend into gray. 

Because I’m not an art major and I wanted to make sure my analogy was accurate before I wrote this article, I googled “Does black and white make gray?” (Stop laughing at me!) Of course, it does, which I knew, but I wanted to make sure. But my search led me to an interesting definition. Not only do black and white create gray, they create what is called “neutral gray.” According to research, this particular gray—neutral gray—is the purest gray on the spectrum because it has no other tint affecting it. 

It’s “both.”

I told a friend the other day that I wanted to change my thinking this year. Instead of making everything “either/or,” I wanted to embrace the concept of “and/both.” I wanted to not be full of guilt or legalism by trying to make everything black and white and box-fitting. I wanted to give myself permission to see that it’s okay—human, even—to sometimes feel two things at once about the same subject. 

This New Year, as you’re setting various goals and resolutions, consider this one with me: making room for gray. 

Here are four reasons why gray might become your new favorite color:

1. Gray Is Open-minded

When you’re not clenching tightly to black or white with both fists, you’re able to consider other people’s opinions. This doesn’t mean we should be double-minded, as we’re warned about in the book of James, or swayed by everything we hear. Of course not! It’s good to have thoughts, opinions, and stances—especially when those thoughts and stances line up with God’s Word. But people aren’t won to the Gospel by being argued and debated to death. When you realize gray exists, and that there are so many different nuances out there to so many different situations, you’re being open-minded, which makes the person speaking with you feel safe. And when they feel safe, they might hear what you have to say. 

Whether someone is right or wrong, they deserve the respect as a fellow image-bearer of God to be heard. Feeling safe in conversations, especially theology-based conversations, is crucial for the outcome of the conversation. I know I tend to process my thoughts verbally and need the safe space to flesh things out before arriving at a conclusion. When we’re not immediately shutting down the other person’s verbal processing, we leave room for them to come to the same conclusion we are. And even if they don’t, we created an environment that is open for future conversations.  

2. Gray Is Friendly

Gray doesn’t insist on having its own way. It’s loving. Remember, if our goal is to live like Christ and be a light in the darkness, to be salt on this earth, we need to be, well—bright and tasty. That means we can’t operate from an off-putting heart posture. When we’re determined that we’re right and our way of seeing something is the only option, and everyone else just needs to get on board with us, we’re not likely to win anyone over. Recognizing that gray exists means being warm and welcoming, and appreciating other people’s perspectives—even if we still think we might be right. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

Sidebar: The Bible can be very black and white—don’t get me wrong. The Lord has the wisdom and sovereignty to be that way. But it’s dangerous for us as Christians to be that way when we’re so easily affected by besetting sin, skewed viewpoints, and selfish desires. Consider Paul. Before he was Paul, he was Saul—and he absolutely thought he was doing what was right before the Lord until God literally blinded him and corrected his path. 

3. Gray Is Soothing

When I painted my bedroom many moons ago as a young newlywed, I was shocked at how many shades of white existed in the paint store. I was even more shocked when I slapped paint on the walls and realized how much purple was in the white I’d chosen. Natural light streaming through the window made all the difference in the way the color affected the room—and my eye. Thankfully, it was a pretty, lavender-slanted white that worked well with our bedding. (Meanwhile, the kitchen white tinted toward pink, which also miraculously worked with our red curtains!) The white in our room was soothing and very appealing in a calming way. Perfect for a bedroom. 

In that same sense, when we tend to look at things with varying shades, we provide a calming atmosphere for the people engaging with us. No one likes to have a convo with someone who is cross-armed, defensive, and uptight about their beliefs. Even if your beliefs line up with God’s Word and you know you’re “right”, be careful with how you present that information. Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) reads: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…"

That “love” word matters. Truth without love is a burden. We need more fruits of the Spirit in our conversations and engagements…and fewer poisonous apples. 

4. Gray Is Freeing

I mentioned wanting to shake off the guilt that can come with being so black and white. To me, gray makes room for grace. We’re so hard on ourselves, as women, moms, wives, Christians… When we get into a situation where we think we “should” feel a certain way, yet we don’t, we can easily label ourselves a “bad Christian.” (Or bad wife, or bad person, etc.) For example, a woman I know took a pregnancy test and was super stressed it might be positive. She had two kids already, loved them both dearly, and was hoping for a third child one day. But she was not ready for it to be THAT day. She felt guilty because she fully appreciated that life is a gift, and there are so many women who would love to be pregnant who aren’t. All the “you should feel this way” thoughts started piling up on her. The test turned out negative, and I told her afterward it was okay to feel both. It was okay to fully believe that God was sovereign over life, that life was a gift, that children were a blessing, AND feel relieved that she wasn’t pregnant right then. She was—and you are—allowed to feel BOTH. 

To carry that example further—it’s okay to love your husband AND feel super annoyed or hurt by something he said or did. It’s okay to be super grateful for your newborn AND admit that you’re beyond exhausted and struggling. It’s okay to forgive AND set boundaries to protect your heart and mental health. It’s okay to love your enemy AND acknowledge the damage they did to you still stings at times. It’s okay to love people AND need alone time. 

See how gray works? 

Feeling two things at once—feeling the black and the white, so to speak—doesn’t mean you’re unstable, a bad Christian, or double-minded. It means you’re human. It means gray exists. It means circumstances, past trauma, memories, life experiences, and sin nature affect all of us. And there’s room for all of it at the foot of the cross. 

The most helpful thing we can do is take all our varying shades to Christ and ask Him to tint them in the direction of His Word and Spirit. He alone is the source of all truth and wisdom. Together, let’s create space for “and/both” rather than crush ourselves under the never-ending pressure of “either/or.” Let’s destroy legalism and cling to grace. Let’s replace the guilt of “should-have” with “maybe next time.” Let’s treat others with respect when they differ from us. 

Let’s make room for gray this new year. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Yurii Yarema

Betsy_headshotBetsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.