|Sent on:||Wednesday, May 2, 2012 10:01 PM|
Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness
Mercy, compassion and forgiveness are terms that we use often on a spiritual path, but what do they really mean? We might think that ‘mercy’ means to show leniency towards a convict, or that it refers to the discretionary power of a judge or someone in authority to pardon someone. Compassion means that we are moved by another’s pain. It is only with a big heart that we can truly practice forgiveness. But surely these acts of mercy, compassion and forgiveness need to begin with the self.
As with all principles on a spiritual path, we need to apply them to ourselves first. It is only when we have self-value and self-love that we can forgive ourselves. Self-love is having compassion for the self, and mercy means that I always act in my own best interests, not selfishly, but with a wisdom that knows what is really good for me.
To seek mercy means to be in a place of weakness. I may not be begging for mercy from a cruel oppressor, but I may be waiting for someone else to make a first move, to make a decision or to behave in a certain way. In this case I need to examine my perceptions: have I just handed over responsibility for my own actions, to others? Am I allowing them to rule my life because I don’t have the self-respect to rule my own? Even something as simple as hoping for a person to call and feeling disappointed because they don’t, means that I am acting mercilessly. I am handing over responsibility for my feelings, and then I blame that person for hurting me!
Likewise, if we are seeking forgiveness from others, it can often mean we do not have enough self-love and self-value. How and why? Because when I have enough self-love and self-value, I take responsibility for my behavior; for my thoughts, words and deeds and choose only the best. Eventually I may arrive at a situation where I never need to ask for mercy because I have not done anything wrong that needs forgiving. Yes, we may make a small mistake now and then and have to say ‘please forgive me’, but a person with self respect will be able to say this easily and without feelings of self-blame and guilt.
Let’s try experimenting with mercy and compassion on ourselves at every moment, and we won’t need to be at the mercy of others. If I am continually at the ‘mercy of people’ then I need to examine myself. What patterns am I repeating that constantly makes me feel small and unworthy, and for which I find myself apologizing for and seeking forgiveness.
In fact it is not a healthy state to be in, to continually make mistakes and ask for forgiveness. It depletes the soul of its power, makes it lose confidence and as a result can make one hopeless and depressed over time.
By contrast, mercy for the self has to be the ultimate catalyst for self-healing. It’s when I truly realize that the old patterns of behavior or indulgences just aren’t working for me; in fact they are causing more pain, suffering and hardship. It is then that I need to exercise mercy on myself and to make a shift in a positive direction. This is where efsplahnia the Greek word for mercy; which means to bring about the best from my heart, enriches our understanding.
In all faiths God is known as the ‘Most Merciful’ or the ‘Compassionate One’ – in Islam, ‘Al-Rahman’ and ‘Al-Rahim’, in Hinduism as ‘Karuna’ and in Asia ‘Kwan Yin’, the bodhisattva, is the icon of mercy and compassion.
Why is it that every soul on earth remembers God when in distress? Perhaps it is because there is the understanding in the soul that only God can truly forgive me and I can then become whole again. God’s heart is pure, untainted, and like an ocean is able to embrace every soul, despite their misdeeds! God’s forgiveness is the ultimate forgiveness. No wonder when there is a deep-seated feeling that God is happy with me, I need not worry about others!
To the extent I am close to God in my good qualities, that I am pure in my intentions and carry a clean conscience, to that extent I am able to have mercy for others. If the judge himself is guilty, how can his mercy work? He too is a slave to his own actions and has no right to judge. Thus, as I become a master over myself, by taking responsibility for myself and listening to my conscience, I am able to clean up my act and feel mercy for others.
We should not confuse mercy with pity and make others feel doomed and worthless. Mercy should inspire and empower.
When it comes to demonstrating mercy and compassion for others we must be careful not to be premature and hasty. Sometimes we judge early and show false mercy, not allowing time and space for others to develop. Here is an example of what I mean. There was a man who tried to help a caterpillar open its cocoon faster so it would come out quicker, only to later find out that once the butterfly was ‘born’, it could not flap its wings. The very act of forcing open the cocoon from inside strengthens the wings of the butterfly. So in the name of mercy, we often try to help others, but in the process deprive them of their growth.
Small mercies are also small blessings. Look for those small things that happen in your life, that prevent the bigger awful things from happening. Don’t just take for granted the simple things in life.
Real mercy and compassion means to live my truth and to share the truth. If I am constantly refraining from speaking out for fear of the repercussions, then I need to ask myself if I truly feel compassion for another. In real friendships, we need to be honest because we don’t want our friends getting hurt.
When it comes to forgiveness, I need to first forgive myself. Fore means first and then I give to myself. Give what? Give back the power to myself that I had given away! Always remember that it’s healthy to forgive others and to then move on. To not forgive means I am holding onto the past and that will forever be like a ball and chain, holding me back and not allowing ME to move on.
It’s Time… to cultivate mercy – the ultimate expression of self-love. As we operate out of love and compassion, we struggle less in our relationships. Look out for the small mercies in your life, which are the blessings that oil the wheels of your life. Have a heart as clean as God’s and, like God, you will have a compassionate heart overflowing with mercy!
Share these thoughts!
This email message originally included an attachment.