Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).
Let me tell you how to live a miserable life.
Be practical. Mercy does not fit in your plans. If you offer too much of it to others, they will take advantage of you, and they will not learn responsibility. Furthermore, if you have too much compassion on yourself, you will get complacent.
Assume mercy is fluff. Or at best, see it as a last resort when competition, control, and cleverness fall short.
Be realistic. Assume the heart of things is heartless. Nature’s laws, after all, yield to nothing. Economic laws are no better. Figure out how to survive, and fight for it.
Meanwhile, relegate mercy to the periphery of things, waiting until the smoke clears and the dust settles on history to come clean up, perhaps to console.
Does the advice above sound familiar? It is the wisdom of the world. The perpetually miserable world.
For a joyful life, try this instead.
Assume that mercy lies at the heart of things. Yes, yes, that may feel awkward, a bit embarrassing. If so, then giggle a little. Or chuckle. But try it on for size, if only a day. Live in a world with mercy at its heart.
Compassionately face the news, the tyrannical boss, the rude customer, and the cat that mauls the mouse. For all their bluster, they remain half asleep. They just don’t see the kindness that engulfs them.
Indeed, they don’t receive every breath as a gift. They see oxygen as an entitlement, perhaps, or just part of the dumb reality of what is. But insert a new assumption that mercy lies at the heart of things, and every breath becomes a gift. Everything becomes a gift. Let the gratitude-fest begin!
Granted we must not get overzealous. We must not face the tragedies of life with a finger-snapping rendition of, “Don’t worry, be happy.” After all, that would not be merciful.
Mercy weeps, too.
Indeed, in the unspeakable anguish of parents whose four-year old died in a freak accident, the heart of things weeps with them, every bit as bereft.
Happiness comes and goes with the shifting winds of fortune. Joy, however, persists through anguish because joy is about connection with love that believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Whatever you believe about the heart of things, you know about mercy. Sometimes you give it, and other times you receive it. After all, if it works at the heart of things, you will receive it unawares even if you do not believe in it.
Yet, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” The Hebrew term for “blessed” is ashre, meaning, “on the right track.” If you believe mercy works at the center of things, it will spring more and more from the center of you. You will bask in it and live it. And amid all of life’s harshness, you will, nevertheless, be on the right track.