Mercy: Undeserved Love

I was recently reading a post by Jim McDermott called “Lessons from Forgiveness School: Proverbs for a Year of Mercy.” He offered some great points about the connection of unresolved anger and hostility to the rampant rate of unforgiveness that plagues many of us. I hope this post blesses you in this year of Mercy!

McDermott writes that “giving in to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Anger falsely promises that it will free us from our pain and isolate the one who wronged us but it only fuels our rage and makes us fester in resentment alone. So we are the ones who are alone and hurt, caged in fear. However anger is sometimes necessary. Anger helps us to articulate that the wrong was real and that it did hurt us. Speaking out your pain is the first step to closure. McDermott writes that “wounds have to bleed or they get infected. If you want to heal, usually you have to hurt.”

There is a certain amount of pressure to forgive – we want to be freed from the hurt and we want to be done with the process as soon as possible. But it doesn’t work like that. Forgiveness is a mind numbingly long process but it doesn’t all depend on us. Forgiveness shouldn’t come at the cost of disregarding our pain and hurting ourselves to appease our moral duty to forgive. We must forgive but we can’t forget. The memories still linger but there are ways to surpass the pain.

Forgiveness isn’t always homework that we need to complete – we can choose to surrender the pain, and let God do the work in our heart. I know it sounds vague and overly simplistic, but my own journey with forgiveness has taught me that anything to do with the soul isn’t about our performance or how much hard work we put into it. Forgiveness or inner healing has a lot to do with receptivity and being able to understand that it doesn’t ALL depend on you.

The benefits of forgiveness are that it frees you and it DOES NOT condone what the person did to hurt you. Forgiveness removes the anger and opens the heart to peace and to love for the sake of the other. Love opens our heart to mercy and teaches us to have empathy. “Mercy is entering into the chaos of another” – Jim Keenan. We all have junk and we are uncomfortable with it. Our mess is embarrassing and we cover it up with smiles and superficiality. Other people’s mess is equally awkward to deal with it when we are already so acutely aware of our own messes. But instead of thinking our mess is terrible and must be hidden at all costs, let us expose those messes for what they are and invite God into the stench and disorderliness. Christopher West said that saints became saints because they exposed their mess to God, and surrendered it to Him, instead of loathing themselves and seething in shame.

We don’t need to be everybody’s saviour – mercy isn’t putting that burden on us. We just need to offer the gift of presence and empathy. When my mother was heartbroken about losing a job, all I did was hold her hand and offer her tissues and I know that small gesture of being with her meant so much. I couldn’t give her a new job. I couldn’t make the pain go away. But I could be present.

McDermott writes beautifully that we should “never forget that everyone you meet is struggling with a terrible burden. And “when all is said and done,” as Ram Dass writes, “we’re all just walking each other home.”