Updated: Nov 7
Blessed Are The Merciful
The thirteenth-century etymology of the word mercy meant having “a disposition to forgive or show compassion.” It was also described as “an act of forbearance or good will.” As such, the etymology identifies a difference between the acts of social justice that met the corporeal needs of others (feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked and attending to to the sick and those incarcerated, which in addition to the incarcerated would include refugees, immigrants in detention etc.) and forgiveness that met the psycho-spiritual needs of others. Both aspects came under the umbrella label of Works of Mercy, with the latter being called the ‘spiritual’ Works of Mercy.
In my language service is all about turning up in the world with the intention to be kind to one’s self, to others and to the planet. Mindfulness from the EAP perspective is remembering in each moment that there is the choice to be kinder. As we know, maintaining that awareness, the recollection that you have a choice (which being more aware brings) often gets railroaded by our ‘habitual’ lives, where we keep doing what we have always done. And even when we try to change our behaviour we struggle to sustain the change.
As explained in the previous post, that is why the narrative of your seven-year-old has to be identified (but not fixed). Many people refer to this as ‘your story’. At EAP, we say that your story is the gift you gave yourself to make a difference in the world. A key principle of this work says that when something is authentically observed it changes. In this context, by becoming the observer of your story, instead of being defined by it, you can be inspired by it instead. Your story has given you a lot of skills and abilities, it’s how you have survived all of this time. So, instead of having the perspective of trying to survive your story, you begin to see how you can thrive through your story. A Course in Miracles call this selective remembering.
Only when we can be free of the limiting beliefs imposed on us by the programming of our story can we see the opportunity to serve, to be kinder. It’s then that we transform our narrative through gratitude. It’s from this perspective of gratitude and this perspective only that the motivation to be merciful (to forgive and show compassion) naturally arises. There is no goal, no determination or having to exert will power to do it. Forgiveness and compassion is the natural extension of the desire to be kinder.
Forgiveness (mercy) is multifaceted. In the same sermon where one finds the Beatitudes, these different facets of forgiveness were listed: pardon wrongdoers; love your enemies; pray for those who condemn and falsely accuse you; turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; and don’t judge. And according to this fifth Beatitude, if you can extend mercy in this way, it will be given back to you. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. A Course in Miracles puts it this way: giving and receiving are the same, and they happen in the same instant. Here’s the thing, when your focus (you are being mindful) is on being kind, you can’t judge another, or condemn them etc. You are either in the one place or the other.
As you can imagine, the natural response is to be reactive to these things, re (again) act (behave or think) as I have behaved or thought before. To be mindful of a kinder approach means that you have a strategy for how to forgive, that you are fully conversant with and know how to apply. More to the point, you may already be doing things to reprogram the neural pathways so they are more aligned with your desire to be kinder.
You might have adopted the approach where you remember that if someone is not extending love, then it must be a call for help. So instead of judging another, you might ask, ‘What can this person tell me that would help me understand why they are the way they are?’ And even if you don’t know the answer to that, you still know it’s a call for help and you bring your heart space to a place of compassion.
If it’s a self-judgement issue, which has been identified in our work as a significant problem, instead of beating yourself up when you do something that is less than serving, take the kinder approach. Identify what wasn’t serving in that instance and take a moment to be grateful for that experience, because it has helped you to become more aware of what would be better serving for you. Each time you repeat this approach you strengthen the awareness of the kinder option (what would be more serving) and there is a tipping point where it becomes the path of least resistance, and you begin to adopt it as your new way of turning up in the world - being kinder to yourself.
At EAP Mentor, we help participants identify the ways their narrative is less than serving as it’s expressed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and then help to identify ways that the understanding and abilities that the narrative has afforded, can be used to be more serving to themselves firstly, to others and to the planet.
If you were to adopt this consciousness of forgiveness, in all of its facets, as well as a devotion to social justice, what difference would that make in your world? In the sermon it explained, “…with the measure you give, it will be measured to you again.” That applies whether it’s judgement or kindness. You get to decide which. Extend mercy and it will be given back to you.
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