Re-Thinking Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”—Matthew 5:7

Do you think she ever showed herself mercy and self-compassion?When we think of a merciful person, images of Mother Theresa squatting by a dying man under a bridge in Calcutta may come to mind. It’s rare to see a merciful person in politics, business or even church life. We live with a dogged tenacity “to get ‘ur done” and to press on in the tyranny of the urgent and competing demands of our lives to show mercy. We’re often too busy to show mercy—or what we even think might be mercy. We’re too pre-occupied with our own agendas to slow down and consider the plight of someone else. We may want to be merciful. But to WANT to be merciful and to actually be mercifully may be two different things.Here again, Jesus offers us a radically different paradigm about how to live life well. How to live well and how to be well—that’s our goal, right?At the root of the word “mercy” is the term “merc” which is an exchange. We get the English word, “mercantile” from this word. A mercantile is a place of trade where goods are exchanged. There is a giving and there is a taking and this is precisely the renewed understanding of mercy we need in our lives today. A merciful person is someone involved in both the giving and the receiving. Both are at the core of being a merciful person.How can you show mercy to yourself after a stressful day?Perhaps the greatest arena of need for us to explore how to be a merciful person is with ourselves. If we don’t learn how to show mercy to ourselves, we soon find ourselves living on empty and the “check engine” light is coming on in our souls. We simply cannot give, give, and give all the time. There must be a receiving. There must be a merciful exchange which says this: Those who give—must be given to. Because I have given a lot today-this week—now… I am going to exchange some time and care for myself. To live in this merciful rhythm is life and it is life giving.The single greatest violation I see in leader’s lives is right here! Most leaders, regardless of where they serve—violate the principle of this great, Sacred exchange. They give. But they will not learn how to receive—how to receive mercy for themselves. We’re confused here. We have few good models and we need help.[tweetthis]Being merciful is never a selfish act. It is a true exchange of understanding that those who give—must be given to.[/tweetthis]Showing mercy to oneself is the art of living in the rhythm of giving and receiving.

  • How will you give mercy to your body who has literally carried you through all the grueling tasks of today—of every day?
  • What would it look like for you to give mercy to your body---to care for your physical well being? I have to admit here that this is a insight that I am so glad to be waking up to. If I am what I eat—then I need to eat in a merciful way to show mercy to my body—to honor my body as the address of my soul.
  • How could you be merciful to yourself in your time and how you spend your time? Are you always in a hurry? How might you slow yourself down and give yourself more margin—more room for an interruption that will not send you into a implosion because some interruption occurred that you did not plan for this week?
  • What would mercy look like to your mind because you have called your mind to engage in spreadsheets, emails and texts matters all day long? How can you let your mind come down--and rest?
  • What would mercy look like to your emotions that have engaged all day long: anger, excitment, fear, angst, stress and so much more. How can you let your emotions relax and come down off the steriods of people, stress, stock markets and disappointments?

Mercy, when correctly understood, begins with ourselves. It’s just as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The bottom line is that you matter! True love is living in the exchange of giving and receiving.As we first live with a recognition that we, ourselves need to give mercy to ourselves, then we find we are able, ready, eager and willing to extend mercy to others. It is an ebb and flow—a give and take. Both are needed and necessary.Most folks in leadership positions, however, are violating this exchange. They either don’t know about the needed, life giving exchange or they ignore it—thinking that they are the exception to the way life works.Mercy has no exceptions. We all need mercy and at the core of every living soul is the need to receive acts of mercy—a touch, a drink of cold water, a short respite under a shady tree where we are sheltered—if only for a short time.When we live this radical paradigm that Jesus offers us, the ripple effects begin to make waves around us. We are living well—and others will live better around us. We are showing kindness to ourselves—and that kindness radiates to those in our sphere of influence and even beyond.To be shown mercy is to be shown a better way to live than we are perhaps currently living right now. To be shown mercy is to be shown that life is an exchange. Healthy folks are not narcissistic. They give and take. As we live as merciful people, we live in a natural, God-ordered way of living that promotes life at the very core of our existence and the existence of every living thing.