“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
The hardest personal decision to make is forgiving someone for hurting us, either physically, mentally, or deep in our spirit. It is especially difficult showing mercy to those who commit the horrible and unthinkable–murder, abusing a child, abandonment, cruelty, or anyone victimizing another person in any sense.
The best way to empathize with someone is to walk in their shoes and imagine what they’ve gone through. To visit an abuser’s head is a scary thought, but maybe the things they have endured and experienced is even more horrific than we could imagine. It certainly does not excuse the behavior or save them from consequences, but it does remind us they are human and once were little babies and toddlers, first grader’s seeking praise, middle schoolers desperately craving guidance and direction, high schoolers that never fit in, adults who never fully develop and thrive, and so on.
I’ve made so many mistakes in my life. I once married the wrong person, the whole time stubbornly tuning out the instinctive voice telling me to run as fast as I could. I stole money out of Mom’s ‘mad money’ jar when I was in the seventh grade and felt so guilty that I skipped lunch and replaced it with my lunch money weeks before confessing. I once gossiped against a friend and blabbed a secret that was told to me in confidence. I have judged someone by their body language or by something I’ve heard about them. I have jumped to outlandish conclusions because I overthink everything. I’ve done and said things that I wish I could take back or do over, either done on purpose or unconsciously.
Because we all do things we regret, I think it’s important to try to forgive others, too. It’s never easy, especially if the wrong was a grievous offense from childhood like stolen innocence or a senseless cruelty. There isn’t a time frame, but as long as we are in the process of working toward forgiveness there is freedom because the offending act no longer holds any power.
In life, there are no do-overs. I can only ask forgiveness and learn from the mistakes I’ve made. In all my transgressions, there has been mercy–from God, my family, and friends. Receiving that forgiveness is a humbling gift. To be honest, the one I find the most difficult to grant mercy to is myself. I learn from my mistakes, but I tend to carry them with me as some sort of penance and I’m slow to let it go.
The concept of showing mercy is heart wrenching and it’s a personal journey on an individual timeline. There is a profound lesson in granting it, but there’s a priceless impact when receiving it.