God’s mercy, as Julian of Norwich put it, is “all love in love.” Mercy goes much further and deeper than taking pity on someone in need or reconciling with someone who has asked forgiveness. Mercy is a way of looking at life, a way of approaching our everyday experiences and relationships. There are many signs of a merciful spirit; let’s tackle a mere four of them today.
- You expect good (behavior, attitude, intention) from others rather than habitually looking for the worst. This means that you don’t go into encounters looking for ways to judge or criticize, and you don’t enter conversations expecting a fight. You don’t put the worst possible interpretations on others’ ambiguous comments. And although you’ve experienced being used or cheated by others, you enter every relationship with hope and trust, relying on wisdom to help you protect and honor all persons.
- When you’re in a position to exercise power over others, you don’t, unless by doing so you are better able to protect or otherwise help them. For instance: If you have a naturally forceful personality, you don’t take advantage of it to get your way. If you have the means to “work the system” to get what you want, you evaluate if what you want is beneficial to the common good. You are especially sensitive to those who do not have your advantage, position, and leverage, and you look for opportunities to empower them and help them grow into their own strengths and gifts.
- You hold back from making comments or divulging information that will cause others to feel embarrassment, shame, or other discomfort. This is especially tempting in a group setting, because often the person who has been shamed or insulted knows that she would only make matters worse by responding or trying to present her side of the story.
- When you must confront another person for the right reason (correcting an error, warning of danger, clarifying a statement or event), you don’t enjoy it. That is, this confrontation does not turn into “getting this off my chest” or “setting her straight.” A merciful person feels the pain of the one she must confront, and she says what must be said as gently as possible.
It’s really disconcerting to write this post and realize that these four signs of mercy are too often absent in my own life. And I won’t ask any of the dotMagis community to confess their weaknesses! But please post your wisdom on this topic.