From the Webster Dictionary:
- a : compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
b : imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
- a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
b : a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>
- 3: compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>
We are all very familiar with the word mercy and most people are taught this word and its meaning from a very early age. As we can see from the definition above, mercy speaks of compassion towards others. Basically mercy is compassion and compassion is mercy. Some people have an easy time showing mercy to anyone, while other folk have more difficulty tapping into and expressing mercy.
Personally I think those who have difficult in showing mercy are people who were not shown mercy themselves in their pasts. Of course this does not touch upon chemical/mental imbalances that prevent the brain from grasping mercy, just past physical, mental and or emotional situations where mercy was not shown and the results left unresolved trauma. I feel this is especially the case in adults who were subjected to trauma as children without mercy from others. These things are like hot brands that leave deep marks in the psyche.
Just take a moment and think of situations where you showed mercy to another in your life; mercy on any level. Yes I think mercy does have levels. Levels of mercy could be seen in examples such as holding your tongue when a person does something you deem wrong, letting one of your animal companions inside when it is raining and caring for someone when they have the common cold. Of course other examples would boost up the level of mercy, like helping to feed to starving, going out of your way to help someone who has been badly injured all the way up to sparing someone’s life or helping someone pass.
Many religions speak of mercy, but when you look back through their history most of them have employed anything but compassion and mercy in the name of their gods and saviors. I think in a world as stressful and seemingly chaotic as this one, I think more people than not have difficult expressing true compassion and the essence of mercy. So many people are bent on the energies of revenge, hate, spite, vindictiveness and other extreme and rash ways. Do not get me wrong, I am not judging one way is “good” and another “bad”, just that they are two very opposite extremes in view and action. Mercy shown to one person might be very damaging down the line to another, while revenge upon one could be merciful down the line to someone else. Sometimes mercy towards one’s enemy is a seemingly beneficial process, while other times it might end up killing you and torturing others down the road. We have a hard to seeing the holistic picture from the limitations of our emotion filled consciousness.
Mercy is not a necessarily a “right” thing to do, it is just an option, and we need to make our own choices based upon the conditioning of our brains from our personal experiences and the emotions of our hearts. This is different for everyone. Showing mercy or not showing mercy is not always based upon the act of personal judgment, it can all too often be directly connected to suffering, and for me this is one of the hardest things to face.
Like most anything, we can speak on something until the mountains crumble, but until we actually experience it we really have no solid comprehension. Abstract knowledge verses physical knowledge. For me I think one of the hardest aspects of showing mercy is to someone you love who is suffering beyond measure. This does not need to be a human either; it can easily be an animal companion of whom many call “pets”. I will give an example.
Recently the rabbit who lived with us for 4 years passed. He lived in our home and the majority of the time he ran free through the house. He ran around just like a dog or cat inside. During the winter he would go out on the back deck for short periods to play in the mounds of snow. When the warm season was here he would lounge outside all day on the porches and decks just like a dog. Many days he would run around the yard all day, free as a bird. After you had been gone all day, when we walked in the front door he would come running from the other side of the house to greet us. Here and there throughout most days he would come running up to get pets and attention. During the winter he would hop up, touch noses with our dog and lay down next to her for company. He had such personality, which surprised us with a rabbit. He was part of the family as much as our dog and other family members.
The second to last day of the Survival Combat Camp he was not well. It came on very quickly and by the time we noticed it was too late. He was outside and got what vets call “fly struck”. Flies landed on him and laid eggs during the day when I was teaching. The eggs hatched and the larvas (maggots) crawl inside the animal’s body wherever they can. In this case they entered the intestines. Once the rabbit stops eating it is already too late and the medication from the vet will no longer work because too much damage has already been done. In most cases the whole process lasts about 24 hours. Yes it happens fast, but not fast enough. The maggots literally eat the animal to death from the inside out.
Once again, another example of how indifferent this world truly is. Just like my article from 2014, Indifference & Humility.
We only noticed around dinner time that he was not well. He must have been attacked late in the afternoon the day prior. The larva must have entered early that morning and been working all day. He would not eat and avoided much attention. I was cleaning up after teaching all day and from what my wife and son told me of their observations I did not expect him to live much longer. After dinner I went out and he had retreated under the large deck, faced the other direction and lay down. I figured he would just go to sleep and his suffering would be over. That was my hope.
I went out later about 11pm in the dark expecting to find him dead. I saw he had come out from under the deck into the middle of the grass and laid down flat. I saw his eye wide open and figured he had passed. Then I saw him blink. My gut turned. He was emaciated, stiff and stank like death. His breathing was short and ragged and his eye could barely blink as he stared into the night sky. I knew why he had come out from under the deck. He came out asking for mercy; a primal, instinctual call for mercy that I think all living creatures possess. I knew he was in such a deep state of shock that he was not all there anymore, but once I started petting him and talking to him I could see a familiar reaction in his eye. I knew he could hear me and soon I could hear him. When I first came out and saw his eye blink I knew what I was going to have to do. When my hand was on his wasted body I could feel the energy of what was eating him inside. I could not imagine the pain he must have endured and for how long. I could also not predict how much longer he would have to endure and I could not bear to see his suffering linger for possibly the rest of the night.
His instincts asked for mercy. He knew I came out every night in summer to say good night. He was in the spot he always was, waiting for me, but this time waiting for death. I had no choice. It was impossible for me to leave nature play out along its own timeframe. I said my goodbyes while petting him and then ended it in a way that was instant and painless, painless for him. I buried him in one of his favorite spots where he would lay in the shade of hot summer days. The next morning I had to go out and teach the last day of the Survival Combat Camp. The day following I mowed the yard and smudged to lift the imprinted energy of suffering from the yard.
I have taken many lives, but to take the life in mercy of someone you love, human or animal, shreds your insides like broken acidic glass. I released and released and released but still for two nights those images haunted me – not the death, but the excessiveness of suffering and absolute helplessness of it, the indifference of this world. Even know I understand the indifference of this life, when it comes down to it, none of it makes such an act any easier. I have seen animal companions pass on before, but never in such a way. A quick injection at the vets office and they just go to sleep, easy and painless, or you wake up and they had passed on in their sleep from heart failure, but this was not easy and not peaceful and the emotional pressure it created was quite unexpected. The extreme suffering of one who cannot understand is one of the most unbearable things in this world and it happens every day.
Also to my surprise was the amount of very old grief that had been locked inside me decided to surface at odd times throughout days and nights after the event. The event was a trigger that poked a hole in the locked door of a dusty old room filled with unexpressed grief from my past. Once that hole had been poked in that door, there was nothing left to do but experience and slowly release all that would come tumbling out. It was no longer about the passing of an animal companion, but of the emotion grief that had built and built through years of the inability to express it, to experience it. Whatever we cannot touch within us at the time of events that create or invoke them, we must experience later in life when the locked door is broken. If you have lung issues or find that your lungs react more quickly to stress than your other organs, you may very well have old grief locked inside you. Grief weakens the energy of the lungs.
Mercy works from both sides, asked and given. But it is not just humans who have the ability to ask for mercy. Animals also intuitively and instinctually understand mercy and can give and ask as well. I have seen animals give mercy in the wild and many zoologists have recorded merciful acts in the animal kingdom. And I have also heard and bore witness to animals asking for mercy.
Mercy – something to ponder from many angles.