intent, mercy & meat sticks

For years my parents have offered me excellent advice. As my mother has long quoted…

First, in the notoriously obvious:

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

Second, in those parental, covert operations:

“Eat your meat sticks; they are so good for you!”

(Note: unbeknownst to this then semi-picky, pre-adolescent eater, “meat sticks” were nothing short of the surreptitious code word for a dreaded serving of liver.)

No doubt the quote I’ve wrestled with most in recent weeks, as we watch a world that too often justifies finding fault in the differences in another — whether it’s shouting at the refs at a divisional NFL playoff game or at the party loyalists as they argue who’s most responsible for a government shutdown (even though many made opposite arguments only five years ago) — is one that centers around the act of mercy. We aren’t very good at generously offering mercy.

Mercy seems a bit of a foreign concept. There’s a compassion aspect — and a forgiveness aspect. Mercy is that unprecedented, contagious compassion or forgiveness shown to another — or to self — when criticism and judgment are so much easier to offer. Fault does exist; but mercy is given in place of finding fault.

My sense is, however, we are selective in our offering of mercy.

For example, we forgive far faster if the erroneous flag thrown on the field benefits our team… and we have great compassion for the cringe-worthy hypocrisy when ideologically aligned with a political party.

We are inconsistent.

So back to my mother’s wisdom…

“We judge other people by their behavior; we judge ourselves by our intentions.”

In other words, we judge others — or those we have a predisposition to find fault in — by what they actually do.

We judge ourselves — or those with whom we align somehow — by what we intend.

We juxtapose our intent with another’s behavior; we don’t judge intent vs. intent nor behavior vs. behavior.

I struggle with that.


Because one of my desires in loving all others well is being consistent and generous in both giving and receiving mercy. I want to take advantage of the promise that God’s mercies are new every morning; think how freeing and fulfilling that would be if we lived that way daily? … if each morning we awoke with that sense of freedom not to be perfect knowing compassion and forgiveness are available each and every day?

I wish, too, no less, to be generous in giving mercy away… on the field, in relationship, on the political or any-for-that-matter spectrum.

“But they don’t deserve it!” is the familiar refrain.

Exactly. None of us do.

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”

“Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge.”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Being merciful means offering compassion and forgiveness in place of criticism and judgment… even when we can’t see it… even when it’s undeserving.

That’s the point.