You Got Me Beggin’

Posted: December 7, 2009 in rules
Tags: , , ,

I love the rules.  I love the rules that bring order and safety to intersections, business and games. I love the rules that protect, that have regard for what is true and good.

I want regulation of the food industry. I want a no-face-mask rule in football. I love a red light that keeps someone from crashing us both where the streets cross.

I hate the rules. 

I hate the rules that exclude, the rules that crush difference and diversity, the rules that hammer people who don’t fit the mold.

And I hate it when we beat people up with exclusionary rules.

When I see that, I hope to see someone bring to the table, something different, something like mercy.

Duffy, the Welsh singer and songwriting phenomenon, gives modern expression to a mercy cry. She sings,“You got me beggin’ for mercy, why won’t you release me.” 

Portia, in the Merchant of Venice speaks of the salutary benefits of it, saying,“[Mercy] is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

 The church sings, “Kýrie, eléison. Lord have mercy!”  

What is mercy?

Mercy is an antibiotic for failure, a remedy for our failures to keep the rules, and for our failures in applying the rules.  When we fail, mercy has power to restore.

Recently I had an infection in a tooth. The doctor gave me Erythromycin. The pain and infection stopped.

I like to think of mercy as divine Erythromycin.  Where there is the infection of failure, mercy can lessen pain and punishment. When guilt from mistakes attacks, mercy can help fight off condemnation. Mercy is compassion, made visible.

When we break the rules, mercy applied has  antimicrobial action; by forgiving it brings  amnesty to suffering, and by acquitting it brings healing to crushed psyches.  Mercy begets mercy. It inspires a future of magnanimous choices.

This isn’t abstract. Every day we choose.  Every day we judge each other and when there is failure we chose, consequences,  no consequences, punishment, no punishment.  And when all is said and done, in the aftermath, we forgive or we don’t forgive. We keep jumping on the mistake, or we erase it with mercy.

The opposite of mercy is harshness. Somewhere between the two is justice. We must constantly be deciding, to stick to what is right, to figure out what is fair, to apply consequences where this is appropriate, to make exceptions where this is right and good, to judge, to acquit and to live with each other afterwards — or not. 

It is a judgment, when to apply mercy and when to punish. 

But the thing is, history would suggest that most of us are not in danger of being to merciful.

There is a kind of circle to this thing too, to keep in mind. The mercy that goes around comes around. And the harshness that goes around comes around too,  hard and fast and blunt.

We often get what we give. It’s enough to make you pause before you swing.

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