Healthy Relationships: Justice versus Mercy (Part 3 of 4)

Greetings and welcome to my post. For this month, I want to focus on this intentional question: Do you want to pursue justice in solving problems or do you want to pursue mercy and grace. When problems come up in a relationship, is it your strategy and focus to try to find ways to seek justice and truth of how to solve relationship problems or is it your intention to try to focus on providing grace and mercy to the person and problem?

So now that I have unpacked the unhealthy pattern of pursuing justice and making love conditional, let me shift and ask this question: What would and how can a relationship flourish and grow when the focus is on pursuing mercy? What if there is mercy given to one each other when conflicts and problems come up so that there is mutual exchange of mercy given to one another.

How would you define mercy? Have you ever felt or experienced mercy and how do that feel? How did it make you feel when someone showed mercy to you? What did that do for you or how did that affect you? Can you see and feel how showing and experiencing mercy feels so good that it leads to each person wanting to participate in acts of mercy?

In general, acts of mercy can be defined as being compassionate, showing pity and empathy, giving kind forbearance towards an offender, to pardon someone by showing acts of kindness or favor to someone. To show mercy is to say to that person that I could condemn you or act mean or hurtful to you but instead I am going to show mercy and kindness to you.

At the movies, there are many great movies that come to mind when it comes to showing acts of mercy. A few years ago the movie Les Miserables came out in movie theaters as an adaption of the musical play. In general, the movie can be summed up as a battle between justice and mercy. The police man Javert lives according to truth, justice, rules and what is right or wrong. Jean Valjean lives his life according to showing mercy and demonstrating acts of kindness. Sure, Jean Valjean committed a crime of stealing a loaf of bread for his sister son who was sick but his penalty for stealing was 5 years in prison and an additional 14 year for numerous attempts to escape.

Once he is finally put on parole, and he returns to stealing, taking silverware at an innkeepers home and the priest shows him mercy and tells the police that not only did he receive the silverware as a gift but also received two silver candlesticks that Jean Valjean had left. The priest showed mercy to him by not turning him in and the police left and Jean Valjean is left perplexed and overwhelmed by this merciful priest.

As a result, he turns his life around but is still haunted and chased by the justice and truth inspector policeman Javert who re-discovers him years later and still is out to get him and punish him for his past sins and crimes. There is a famous song between the Jarvert and Jean Valjean in which Jarvert is convinced people like Jean can never change, you will always be a criminal who deserves to be punished, and he is the law and he wants to apply justice as a penalty to Jean given the truth is the law and he needs to pay the penalty the rest of his life. No mercy, no kindness.

This movie has this theme of the battle between good and bad, justice and mercy, and truth versus grace. But as you know, this theme is not only played out in the movies but also in real lives every day in real homes and real personal relationships. And the reason it is real is the challenge for all of us in a relationship of what to pursue when someone hurts us: justice and mercy. Justice demands conditions and performance well mercy invites kindness and freedom.

To be a merciful person is to say that I value freedom in this relationship. So when you spill the milk, justice will say you have to pay for this spilled milk and I am going to hold it against you until you prove to me you don’t do this again. But mercy says, okay, you spilled the milk, let’s not let spilled milk ruin or cause our relationship to go into being mean to each other by applying justice or an eye for an eye. Mercy says you made a mistake, this mistake will not cost you or me anything, and we will let it go, be kind and say I am sorry too you spilled the milk as I am sure I too will spill milk tomorrow and we can show empathy and kindness for the spilled milk.

To show mercy is move away from living according to the law, truth and justice. Law, truth and justice are very important in our society and very important when someone violates us and steals or breaks one of the main laws of our society and we are greatly affected. But when we take that same model and we apply it to our most important and personal relationships, than we are viewing the person through the lens of conditional love. Mercy is unconditional love and it involves finding new ways to accept one another rather than placing demands on one another. Thanks for reading.