"The Quality of Mercy"
Hello, my friends.
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath:It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…"
- William Shakespeare
Nearly 40 years ago, Sister Deidre made our entire class memorize Portia's speech from The Merchant of Venice, quoted above, and to this day I can still recite that first part.I owe Sister Deidre a debt of gratitude that I can never repay, because she instilled in me one of the greatest gifts of my life:the love of language, of beautiful words and ideas and the art of their arrangement.Nothing touches me like good writing; nothing inspires and uplifts me like reading a classic work of literature.
In recent weeks, I've been obsessed with a new little book entitled, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.It may not be an "old classic", but something about the way it's put together resonates within me, and slowly but steadily, it's changing me at the deepest level.The book is about the "Law of Attraction" (we attract what we think about), and I listen to the audio version constantly in my car and while I'm exercising at the "Y."Based on its principles, I've written down several pages of affirmations that I re-read and try to "internalize" at least twice a day.
One of those affirmations is, "I am goodness, mercy and truth."I had scribbled those thought flashes as quickly as they struck, trying to just let them flow uninhibited onto the paper, and I didn't stop to think about them too much until later.But every day afterwards, when I came to that particular sentence, I would get a little "stuck" on the word, "mercy."Why did I pick that word?
Oddly enough, I've often been in the habit of telling my patients jokingly, "There's no mercy here.You go to church for mercy.You come here to get better."So why did I choose that particular word to include in my affirmations?I had to wonder.
One of my most trusted references is the dictionary.When in doubt, good ole' Daniel Webster can often be of some assistance, so I looked up his definition of "mercy," and here's what I found:"more kindness than justice requires; kindness beyond what can be claimed or expected"
Kindness. Now there's a word I can wrap my heart around.One of my favorite songwriters is a young lady named Jewel, and she has a song entitled, "Hands," in which one of the simplest and best lines is, "In the end… only kindness matters."I think she may be right.
We can all relate to kindness.We've all given it out, and we've all been its grateful recipients.When we're down, when we're in a bind or even just having a bad day, there's nothing like a kind or thoughtful word or deed, no matter how small.
In our office, we deal with pain and suffering on a daily basis, and when people are hurting, it's not difficult to feel for them, especially knowing that even the slightest amount of compassion can sometimes go a long way toward helping a patient heal.For some, I suspect it's the only love they ever get.
Mercy, on the other hand, is a different matter.As I hinted above, we think of mercy as being in the domain of the divine.We think of mercy as coming from God.Mercy requires "more kindness than justice requires," and in certain cases, that can be a tall order.
Let's face it:some people just aren't very nice.Some people are just hard to love.They bite the hand that feeds them.They seem to resent help.They're determined to be angry, demanding, inconsolable, incorrigible.They almost dare you to care, and punish you for it if you accept the challenge.Theirs is the need for mercy, "kindness beyond what can be claimed or expected."Mercy is their only hope.
We're all created "in the image and likeness of God."Even me.Even you.Even them.All great religious and philosophical traditions agree on that point.Our greatest challenge in human relationships is to remember that great truth, and to act from within, from that place inside ourselves that we all share, the place that Rhonda Byrne, in The Secret, describes as the "life presence" within us.She calls it, "a feeling of pure love and bliss," and she says, "it is perfection."
If we could all meet one another on that common ground, we'd see the "less joyful" among us as they truly are, and recognize their fear, their anger, their isolation, their physical or emotional pain as our own.Somewhere in that place lies mercy, Shakespeare's "attribute to God himself," which he says "becomes the throned monarch better than his crown."May we all find it together.
Wishing you health, happiness and peace,
Dr. Frank Bowling