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.

A paraphrase from St. Paul in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:8–10, which states, "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am...".

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 of the Divine, or for fortune or fate.

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 one's upbringing) have played a role in one's success in life.
  • The adverbial phrase is often set off with commas: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
  • Used also to express that one cannot judge others for their flaws for we are all equally flawed.

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