What Does There But For The Grace Of God Go I Mean?

There But For The Grace Of God Go I Meaning

Definition: If things were different, I might be in as bad of a situation as that other person.

Origin of There But For The Grace Of God Go I

People point to a number of religious leaders as the source of this expression, which means that I, too, could be in such a situation if it weren’t for the grace of God.

It is most widely attributed to John Bradford, who said it upon seeing criminals who were being lead to their execution in 1553. Bradford himself, who many credit with the phrase, was executed two years later for heresy. He was a Protestant living in Roman Catholic English.

Still, others have been credited with the phrase, including John Wesley, John Bunyan, and other important religious leaders.

The exact origin in unknown.

Examples of There But For The Grace Of God Go I

by the grace of god go i meaningThe first dialogue shows a brother and sister passing a homeless woman on the street.

Luke: I can’t believe the police let these homeless people overrun the city! It’s disgraceful!

Ella: What do you mean? If she has no home, where is she supposed to go?

Luke: Somewhere where the sight of her won’t disturb normal people like me.

Ella: That seems a little selfish.

Luke: Why? It’s not like homeless people are like you and me.

Ella: On the contrary. When I saw that homeless woman a minute ago I was thinking to myself, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Luke: How so?

Ella: I never told you this, but my husband used to hit me. I ran away to escape him and had no money and no phone. I was fighting with our parents and you at the time, so I had no one to help me. I almost had to sleep on the streets overnight, but a kind woman took pity on me and paid for me to stay in a hotel and helped me find a job and a place to stay more permanently.

there but for the grace of God meaningThe second example shows two friends talking about a friend of theirs who just died in a car accident.

Ray: I can’t believe that Charles is gone. He was just driving home, like he did every night. He probably didn’t even realize that he had been hit by another car before he died.

Ricardo: Yeah. Something like that could happen to any of us. There but for the grace of God go I.

Ray: So true.

More Examples

This article excerpt is about regular people who share a name with a famous person.

  • There can sometimes be a strange “there but for the grace of God go I” feeling to looking at other people’s lives through the prism of our names. –New York Daily News

This other example is about a man who, if circumstances were different, might have personally suffered in the Syrian war.

  • Understanding that, as a Syrian-American, there but for the grace of God go I, over the last few years I have spent many days providing humanitarian aid in Syrian refugee camps, including in March 2013 in Jordan (where there are now more than 600,000 refugees) and July 2015 in Turkey (where there are nearly 2 million). –New York Daily News


There but for the grace of God go I is a way to describe that bad events can befall anyone. Only God prevents that destiny from happening to one person and not another.