there but for the grace of God go I

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Allegedly from a mid-sixteenth-century statement by John Bradford, "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford", in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution.

Proverb[edit]

there but for the grace of God go I

  1. A recognition that others' misfortune could be one's own, if it weren't for the blessing/kindness/luck bestowed by fate or the Divine.
  2. Man's fate is in God's hands.
  3. More generally, our fate is not entirely in our own hands.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This proverb is an expression of humility; in using it, a speaker acknowledges that outside factors (such as God's grace, or his upbringing) have played a role in his success in life.
  • The adverbial phrase is often set off with commas: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Translations[edit]