Embracing Mercy: Showing grace to ourselves, our families, and our community
Rediscovering Mercy: A study from Anne Lamott
It's up to each of us to recognize and understand mercy, and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other. "Hallelujah Anyway" is profound and caring, funny and wise -- a hopeful book of hands-on spirituality. Join us as we explore this transformative book by Anne Lamott.
My five-year-old, Lily, started Kindergarten in August. And while it has been a reasonably smooth transition, and she seems genuinely happy with her teachers and new friends, she has also had her first encounter with a kid that I’m tempted to label as a bully.
There is another little girl in her class that almost every day after school I get a negative report. Recently Lily came home and told me that the child that she keeps having issues with told her that she didn't like her and that Lily would not be invited to her birthday party. As I listened to my tenderhearted girl recount what had been said to her through tears, I immediately felt my blood boil. I began going through in my mind every repercussion that was available to me. Maybe I could tell the teachers; maybe I could talk to the principal, is it appropriate to yell at a five-year-old in the pickup line at school? I'm kidding... Kind of.
Lily, then said something that I am still thinking about today. She said “I wonder why she is so mad, momma? Maybe someone is mean to her, and that's what makes her so mean?"
What a true and wise statement from such a little person. I immediately began to let go of my fantasy of kicking this kid’s mom in the shins as I thought about the things in this child’s life that could cause her to have the problems that she does. I marveled at what beautiful mercy and understanding Lily had just shown in light of having her feelings hurt.
It made me think of the times I was unkind to someone, and they responded with grace instead of anger. It is in those moments when we are given mercy we didn’t expect, that there is room for growth and change.
There is this notion that we must respond to anger with anger, or meanness with even more meanness. This is the myth of redemptive violence, which if we can just outdo unkindness with more unkindness, that's when we "win." If we can best someone by being the bigger bully, then the problem will be solved.
Have you noticed how prevalent this notion is in our country right now? Every time I turn on the news I see rampant cases of anger begetting more anger, mean-spiritedness begetting more mean-spiritedness. But the truth is, ugliness will never change ugliness.
Only grace and love can truly change someone’s heart.
Where does the concept of Grace begin? My friends, it begins in Jesus. It begins with God’s pouring out of love upon us through Jesus. It is through God’s love that the concepts of mercy and grace have a real chance at taking root in our hearts.
For me to be merciful, I must first accept God's grace for myself.
The person I typically pass the most judgment on and have the hardest time forgiving is in fact myself. Anne Lamott says, “Mercy is radical kindness.” And that is the best way that I can describe what God’s love means to me.
There is no logical way to explain God's love. It doesn't make sense that a being so perfect could love and be interested in me. But, God is interested in me, and God does show radical kindness all of the time. When I can embrace that grace as a gift that God gives freely to me, then I can begin to show Grace to those closest to me.
Accepting God’s grace starts a chain reaction.
When I believe I am loved entirely without exception, then I can better love fully and without exception my family and friends. My children show me grace all of the time. They are quick to forgive me, as I frequently say and do the wrong things. There are no grudges held in their sweet little hearts. I ask for forgiveness, and they forgive. I snap at them harshly, and they let it go quickly.
It is radical, the kindness that they show me. And I hope that in return when they make a mistake that they can receive and hold onto the radical kindness I try to give to them.
As this chain of grace and mercy spreads, I find it easier to have grace than for the people in our community that I do not understand.
It is easy to put people into categories of good and bad. People who believe differently than me politically often go into the bad category it seems. But, really they are just people who’ve had different life experiences than me and view the world differently.
A five-year-old who is mean to my kid gets labeled a bully in my mind, when in reality, maybe they just need a hug, or a high five, or an encouraging word from an adult.
We have to stop putting people into categories. We have to stop labeling those who think like ourselves ‘good' and everyone else ‘bad.' Radical kindness, radical forgiveness, and radical mercy are the acts that change people’s lives and hearts for the better.
I am thankful for my daughter who loves well, even when it’s hard.
I am thankful for the mercy God shows me and continues to show me every day of my life as I continually mess up and then try again.
I am thankful for the people around me that show grace to those who society has labeled as bad or not worth helping.
In these situations, I can tangibly see and better understand the love and grace of God. By experiencing such grace, I can then be that grace for those around me that are in need of kindness when they expected hatred.
How can you practice Radical Grace for yourself? For those close to you? What about for those who seem vastly different than you are?