Sunday, 3 January 2016

I Choose Mercy

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In the midnight hours of a Saturday night, I was battling sleep. My eyes were embracing betrayal, defiant in their refusal to let me rest. I wasn't hot or sticky, and I wasn't uncomfortable. I was just awake.

After a few days off work, my insomnia had crept back in and I found myself scrolling absentmindedly through my social media feeds. I was looking for inspiration or lullabies, for something to feed me.

I made some notes on my phone for a smarter than usual essay to write, and then I tapped advice to faraway friends over Snapchat. I kicked my feet from under the covers. 
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For some reason, I ended up taking the Myers-Briggs personality test. I always enjoy those kinds of digital self discovery which lead to some kind of revelation, whether fabricated or otherwise.

The test itself is your standard formulaic online questionnaire. One question had me well and truly stumped, though. Which did I value more: justice, or mercy?


In the end, I chose mercy.

Not long ago I would have chosen justice. My truth hunter heart would have chosen to tip the scales. I would have been aghast at choosing the latter, assuming that I had become soft and mushy in my twenties.

But there's a difference between justice and revenge, and justice can't exist without mercy.

For now, I'll just talk about showing mercy to those who have wronged me. Otherwise we'll be here all day.

The problem with compassion is that it leaves you open to all kinds of risks.You get taken for granted, and you get proven wrong- a lot. Sometimes you end up the fool, and sometimes you end up with less than you started with. Every once in a while, you get it right. 

I tend to see things more in greyscale. I've never been able to put things into black and white, because life is more complicated than that. Life itself is full of mistakes and strangulated complications and it's often hard to do good in this world. I'm always at conflict with myself, battling my vision of how things should be against my belief that things are messy, and people are broken. Nothing is easy.

My ideology used to be wrapped up nicely in thick red ribbon and adjectives. I used to tell you exactly what I believed and why I believed it. Until the world looked at me and said "Wait a minute, smart ass. You think you know what's coming? You haven't seen anything yet, darling."

Once the world rid me of my arbitrary concerns and moral doctrine, I started to understand people. The more I understood them, the more I came to understand myself. I started to see I wasn't as hardened as I once thought.

Although I could be brash and I could be cold, more often than not I tried to be the most decent version of myself. I've let that slip occasionally.

A long time ago, I was not so interested in the why of a story, just the facts. I liked bullet points and endings, and turning a mess into something straight and narrow.

When you feel angry, you go to war with the world. Your anger hasn't quite formed into any wisdom or growth. Your anger makes you want to exact revenge, and you can't quite see the bigger picture. You just want havoc and hell, you want savages and bare teeth. Anger does not feel the breeze of a white flag waving, it just screams war. Anger is your silhouette, and that's all that people see of you. Have you ever tried to be nice to an angry person? It's hard. It takes a while for anger to subside into something clever, or something kind.

I've parted ways with many due to anger. I've let my rage do the damage, and I've quickly disposed of those who have wronged me. A few years ago, this started to change. Although there are still many that are exiled from my life, I chose to let a very select few back in. Lucky them, right?

It happened because I knew the story far too well. I knew my story and theirs. Suddenly I had this deficiency, a rare confusion of morals. I wanted to invite the people back in my life who had hurt me, and it wasn't because I wanted to self destruct, it was because I wanted to do better. I knew I was breathing in toxins, but maybe this time it would do no harm.

Anger is exhausting, and I needed to rest. Even if it meant being foolish, I needed to rest.

I care little about the personal glory of heroes and villains, and I care more about making peace with my past and my keepers. Once I started to actually grow the hell up, I felt more harmony with the past. Nowadays, I'll judge you for your eyebrows but not for much else. Unless it's really, really bad. Or unless I just don't like you. I'm still working on that one.

At times I may pardon you for your mutations, your indiscretions. I might understand your need to break fragile little things, things that were pretty, things that were too good for you. I'll give you some slack, but I won't forgive every mistake or every unnecessary evil. We'll figure out the balance.

In general, we know when to be compassionate. We know to have empathy for the man with grey eyes, the one who sleeps in doorways on newspapers. We know to give spare change, and to be aware of the world's sorrow. 

We know when to suffer together.

The discussion of who we show mercy to and why is a bigger conversation, and one that has no place here. This serves as my own reminder that I can show mercy in small ways, and that someday I'll need it too.

People take the good in the world for granted. They wrap it up and twist it, and keep it for themselves. There will always be people who steal from you and surprise you, and mercy is terrifying territory for a lot of us. You just have to believe that you know yourself well enough to decide who deserves your forgiveness.

There's nothing pretty about mercy. It's not something you can brag about, or add to your resume. It's not something that comes easily, given that sometimes those who need mercy are those who deserve it the least.

People do bad things in the world and it can be hard to draw the line between evils. There are no excuses for cruelties and blood shed, and there are limits to the patience of humans. 
mercy quote
My compassion is sometimes my weakness.

My defect is my grace.