Four Signs That You Are Merciful

4 Signs That You Are Merciful - text on wood-tone background

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 110 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

18 Comments on Four Signs That You Are Merciful

  1. I started adding political leaders to my prayer list when I found myself angry at them. Praying daily has helped me to stop assuming the worst when they are in the news and to see ways in which their statements and behavior make sense. I would still like to see most of them replaced in another election cycle, but now I am dealing with people and not caricatures.

    • Thank you Tom for sharing that kernel of wisdom AND mercy. Yours truly shares at the very least a similar ongoing annoyance at their apparently flagrant dishonesty. Two things I try to tell myself when I get to that point: 1) There but for the Grace of God go I! and 2) In the situations in which they appear to be giving public scandal, they have probably become so humanly defensive about their behavior as to have ceased being objective about the facts of their conduct. At least that’s my take. Praying for them is, I think quite biblical. Saint Paul urged no less, under Emperor Nero, no less, as a faithful Roman Citizen. I believe he could and can teach US a great deal about faithful citizenship in these United States. I honestly don’t think we’ve got any office-holders any worse today than Nero was then. Comments?

  2. It is to my advantage and instruction to imitate Him who first showed me mercy. Today, Thanksgiving Day, is a special day to be grateful for Divine Mercy, I am thankful.

      • Hi Paul
        I was given a beautiful little book called ‘Enfolded In Love Daily Readings with Julian of Norwich’ Edited by Robert Llewelyn Pub Carton.Longman +Todd ISBN 0-232-52550-1
        It is a pocket size which gives a very brief introduction of her life and then follows a short daily reflection taken from a translation of her ‘shewings’ It’s very simply written and uplifting.
        I hope you can find a copy and be enfolded in love. Blessings to you x

  3. When I need to work with others, especially in situations that are challenging, I pray for the help of the Holy Spirit and St Peter Faber. St. Peter Faber was noted for his prudent and kind ways in dealing with with almost everyone and in every situation. Next, I ask myself, how would I like to hear this message? Next, I reflect on how best to present the message or respond to the situation? Over time, I have found a little kindness goes a long way.

    • I identify myself with you, I also invoke the Holy Spirit cos without it it is impossible to deal with certain folks and like to I put it just as I would like to hear it said to me, and right you are, a little kindness goes a long way.

  4. Thank you Vinita for your thought provoking article. Very timely for me.
    I am daily asking for Our Lord Jesus to act in me as I struggle to care for an elderly close relative who has dementia.So often it feels like a painful duty as there is a background of childhood trauma. Nonetheless there are times when I feel a tenderness because of his vulnerability and see his diminishing self, and the poignancy of this helps me through. I believe that this is God’s grace helping me to show mercy. And also, when i find I’m ready to burst with frustration and impatience and start beating myself up about how I handled things, I now understand that God in His infinite mercy understands and forgives my humanness. That encourages me not to give up and so I can be grateful for being forgiven and respond by trying to be my best most loving and merciful self.As Mother Julian said ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, And all manner of things shall be well’

  5. Vinita, Thank you for you thoughtful reflections. I sure needed this one having committed myself to being more merciful in anticipation of my 70th birthday. It’s a great boost to my flagging spirit.

  6. Everyday we have situations where our mercy towards others is called for….in big ways and small ways. Sometimes it is easy to show mercy and sometimes it is hard. But when I am struggling to forgive, understand, love, and show kindness to someone, I think of how much God has forgiven my shortcomings….and then it becomes much easier to do the same to others.

  7. Too often absent in my own life also! Albeit, at these times of personal failure I may be learning that these are the times I may also have to show mercy too myself.

  8. Thank you for the ways mercy needs to be part of our everyday life in all situations for all of the responses. Each one so important in our interactions with others and with ourselves.

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