Sometimes I think it is easy to overlook the work it takes to make oneself a better human being. It is so much easier to place one’s own needs above another’s, and it is easier to spew hateful or reactionary words than those that build up or facilitate forgiveness or reconciliation. Showing mercy is not easy; it is a sacrifice.
I have a handful of younger siblings. One is eight years younger than me, two are ten years younger than me, and another is a whole whopping twenty years younger than me! The older one has some developmental disabilities, and the youngest one is only 13, so their infractions on my nerves are more easily overlooked. The twins, though…well, that is another story. Growing up, I never would have thought we would have a “regular” sibling relationship with ten whole years between us! When you are young, that is a huge difference. But lo and behold, we grew up, and ten years is no longer all that great of a time span.
But then there are sometimes when it is. I mean, it really is.
In these moments when our maturity levels differ (and I’ll admit, there are probably times when I am the immature one) I am quick to react in anger. Most people do not know me as an angry person because I have tried very hard to NOT be one, in general. But when in the company of close family members, it is easier to let one’s base nature out to play every once in a while. In my lower moments, I am not above yelling, accusing, swearing off future engagements, and just plain “illuminating” for others what their problems are and how they can (and had better!) fix them. [I know. You’re shocked. But it’s true.]
All this, and yet I still consider myself a careful person with my words, because I am very well acquainted with the irrevocable damage those invisible little swords can cause. Very careful…except when I’m not so much.
And of course after I’ve let my words fly I always spend the next day or so worrying. Because I really do care. I really do want to be a person who builds up and doesn’t tear others down.
What is mercy? It is huge, that’s what it is! And it involves things like overlooking faults, being patient with shortcomings/weaknesses, forgiving wrongs, giving what is needed whether it is asked for or deserved or not, and a whole lot of other really hard things!! Exercising one’s mercifulness is just that – a sometimes exhausting workout (but really good for you, blah, blah, blah lol)!
Mercy is something I am paying attention to and focusing on improving in my own life and demeanor this year. Because as difficult as it is to grow in, and as sore as those muscles sometimes are afterward, reminding me how out of shape this part of me can get, mercy is a magnificently beautiful thing. It is like a clean, plush robe placed around the shoulders of a raggedy beggar. It is luxurious and soft and comforting. It is something that only those who “belong” someplace get to wear.
And I want to be radically inclusive. I want the people I engage with to feel like they belong. I think that is part of showing mercy, too. It is a mercy I have needed, and one I wish to give.
I believe Pope Francis was truly inspired by God in his timely proclamation of this year as a Holy Year of Mercy. If there is anything this world and its people need, this is it. May I grow in this virtue in my own life.