Mercy means that we allow our heart to enter that of another – with Empathy and Compassion – that heart speaks to heart
We take on their sufferings, their desolation, their anxiety – as if they were our own.
We do not pass judgement or criticism or say bad things – even to our enemies – we don’t glory in the challenges or misfortunes of anyone
However if we are called to Mercy – what about Justice? Does the Virtue of Justice play an equal role?.
- Do we just discard Justice and say – it is okay to just have hurt someone (physically, emotionally, spiritually)- and not be held accountable?
- Do we just give this person the freedom to act however he or she wants or decides?
- Do we ignore the consequences of the words, deeds or actions?
- Does Mercy have any accountability at all?
I believe that today the overwhelming and common message- if the Virtue of Mercy is considered at all – is that Mercy shows weakness, that people will take advantage of you, that you must fight back, or provide your opinion (which must be accepted by others).
This reaction is one of Vengeance – the very opposite of Mercy.
Vengeance says I want to destroy you, hurt you and make you pay. I won’t help you at all.
If we allow ourselves to be just infused by daily Breaking News – mainly leaving us with fear, or anger, or anxiety, or worry or untruths – we could easily decide: “I don’t want to be any person’s doormat – so I reject the Virtue of Mercy.”
“I will stand for myself and disregard Mercy” “I will hold my feelings of defiance, that I will not show Mercy”
In reality we reject the healing and compassion of the Virtue of Mercy – with this decision. And its Consequences are on us and not just on the perpetrator.
To me two examples of Mercy in recent times stand out:
The first is when Pope St John Paul II was shot by an assassin during in the 1980’s. He should have died – and there is talk that he actually did for a short time. But he recovered and bore the resulting health challenges to his death.
There is a powerful show of Mercy from this as the Pope eventually visited and met his assassin in a Turkish prison. They sat close to each other and the Pope forgave him – both the action and the consequences. He opened his heart to his assassin. The pope and the perpetrator left each other in peace – to continue their lives.
Just as the Pope showed the Virtue of Mercy and the person accepted this – the shooter still had to serve his time. Mercy was balanced by Justice. The shooter had to be accountable for his deed. And the Pope continued displaying many Virtues (especially Mercy) during his 28 years as Pope.
The second – certainly quickly forgotten by the media in the NZ Mosque shootings where one man in a wheelchair who had just seen his wife being shoot – came out to address people and included his forgiveness to the shooter. Yes this heart broken, he was sad. But this defenceless man – showed Mercy to the shooter.
- Is it hard to believe? Yes it is.
- Did he find it hurtful, difficult and unbearable? I am sure he did!
- Did it set him on a pathway of healing by realising over time that the anger, the hate, the pain of loss, the loneliness that he would endure for the rest of his life needed to be addressed so as to survive? Yes it did.
Although the shooter was shown person Mercy – he did not accept it – BUT the consequence of JUSTICE is being played out today. He is being held Accountable for his crimes.
Mercy is critical to our well being and those of others – to remove hurt, confusion, distrust – BUT it needs to be balanced by Justice in the right or best measure of accountability
Justice and Mercy are twins – they complement each other. You cannot have Mercy unless Justice is fulfilled.
Justice is giving to another their due – and it can positive or punitive.
For Mercy to be allowed to flourish – Justice must be fulfilled:
- For the person offended – they have something due to them to help with peace, comfort, understanding for the consequences they suffer
- The person causing the hurt needs to be held to account – it could simply be an apology or perhaps more punitive- a new discipline, an atonement or other.
- Justice is a kindness to the offended – It says to the villain “you must do this”
Mercy is giving the freedom to the other person to change their life and behaviour. They should understand the harm caused and that these actions no longer need to define who they are.
They can reshape their lives. They can become a better version of themselves. Virtues need to play a big part in this change. The pain of discipline, of respect, of compassion, of mercy, of forgiveness, of empathy – are difficult to embed into our daily behaviour. However the consequences will be miraculous.
The pain of regret, of continuing on the same path with anger, hate, selfishness, fear – will weigh much more deeply on the person and ultimately society.
To act with Virtue or not is a choice –some discomfort will be present either way – all choices have a price – however virtue provides freedom to become the best version of yourself
Need to know ourselves well so as to keep the virtues and the vices in control
We are responsible to act with virtue and keep a good look at the person looking back in the mirror
Mercy and Justice are Lighthouses for us all – a lighthouse stays steady and true. It doesn’t help a boat which has lost orientation – to move the Lighthouse.
It does ourselves or an society no benefit if we discard Justice or Mercy whenever it suits us to do so.
I think that acting with Virtue and with Character keeps us Authentic and Consistent with our Values.
How to be authentic:
- Own your own actions and reactions
- Be a professional – show up and deliver when and where you say you will
- Reduce or remove the whinging or the complaining – find a better way
- Don’t tolerate bullshit or poor behaviour – turn away
- Speak frankly, directly, clearly
- Question ideas, statements, listen and be open, respectful and consistent
- Use your wisdom and knowledge to make the best conclusions according to your Values.
- Be yourself – be Authentic – know who you are and show it
Mercy and Justice go hand in hand and Authenticity is the biggest help.