Have you ever participated in a writing sprint challenge?
Neither had I until a couple of weeks ago. Someone was doing one on Instagram and I signed up right away because there were prizes. There are probably a lot of things that I can be motivated to do for the sake of artisanal smelly candles. I should remember that.
Ok, back to the writing sprint.
The challenge was that there were prompts for each day and you would write for a set amount of time and then post on Instagram for accountability. The writing sprint prompt one day really captured my attention and I decided to turn it into this blog post. It was just one word: mercy.
Mercy. It isn’t an unusual or exotic word. But it struck me that this is not a word that I use or hear a lot. It’s not really in the zeitgeist the way that forgiveness is for example. It’s an ordinary word, why did it feel uncommon? What thoughts/ideas/feelings does the word evoke?
My first thought was that mercy correlates to surrender. Not that there is some sort of causal relationship, they’re not two sides of the same coin; but maybe they live in the same room.
So where does that correlation come from?
I started to pull my idea apart. Mercy is an act from a position of power, isn’t it? Whereas surrender seems to be something that the one who is being acted upon would do. Asking for mercy is a means of surrender.
That got me thinking about affirmations and all that jargon. Forgiveness is very trendy these days. But what about mercy?
Mercy means that you were in an acknowledged position of power and chose to relinquish your advantage. That rather than impose your will, you showed restraint. I suppose that mercy takes a good deal more awareness and self-control than forgiveness.
By the time that you get to forgiveness the thing is done. You stayed strong and kept plowing ahead with a single-minded determination, then when it’s over, you can evaluate and choose to forgive.
Mercy requires evaluating the impact of your actions while in process. That’s no fun.
If you follow the etymology of mercy all the way back to its Latin root, you find the word merx which means “wares” or “merchandise.” There is something tangible about giving up one’s advantage in a power dynamic, isn’t there?
All that being said, I wonder if we all couldn’t use a little more mercy in our hearts, even more so than forgiveness.
Just because something is within our power to make happen doesn’t mean that we always need to. Maybe have mercy for your feet by not wearing those shoes (you know which ones I’m talking about – they are really cute). Rather than say the unkind thing that you will apologize for later, demonstrate mercy by not saying it at all. You could even get meta with it – I’m thinking things like buying hand soap at the refill-your-own-container store (mercy) instead of putting another plastic container in the recycling bin (forgiveness).
What do you think? Did I get too in-between on this?