Government Watch / Opinion / Politics / We The People

A Word on Mercy


Justice and mercy. We hear about these qualities in faith, especially Christianity, and try to strike some balance between them. Some days, we want “a pound of flesh,” others we lighten and forgive. More and more, mercy is lost. When that happens, societies fray, since mercy matters.

Too deep for discussion? Sure to be political? Not really. You could spend all day citing references to justice and mercy in the New Testament, or Jewish Selichot (penitential prayers), or Koran.  All three argue showing mercy is what – in the end – warrants mercy.

How and when might mercy be useful? What happens if we ignore it? Obviously, justice – strict penalties for intolerable acts – is right. Acts warrant consequences. High crimes must be punished, accountability demanded, criminal laws enforced, political leaders held to account.  Without this, we have no republic, rule of law, and society becomes violent and ungovernable.

But what about in daily life?  Here is where, it seems, we are out of whack. When everything gets political, family relations, ties with friends, and everyone brings a hammer down, societies come apart. History is clear, societies divide into sides. Just think about Germany, 1932.

When basic human bonds – including forgiveness for mistakes and offenses – loosen, risk grows that order turns to disorder, respect to “what the hell,” and peace to hatred. Civil becomes uncivil, and a vicious cycle begins that is harder and harder to stop. 

History should temper us. You may not think so, but references to this point are plentiful, part of all the holy books ever written. We even have references in our own lives, if you will think about it – times when mercy was desperately needed, thoughtfully shown, and willingly accepted.

Shakespeare had a knack for “finding the timeless,” pinning it to a page. He did that in “Merchant of Venice.”  The entire book is about mercy and justice, the ways in which we ask and give it – or are asked for and decline to give it, often profoundly regretting that decision.

While justice is important, “the quality of mercy” between people allows wholeness of souls and preserves society. In “Merchant,” Shakespeare writes: “The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven …. It is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Lots of history pre-dated Shakespeare. He wrote on it. Speaking of kings, he wrote mercy is “mightiest in the mightiest,” and mighty too in those not kings. “It is an attribute of God Himself … earthly power doth then show likest God’s, when mercy seasons justice.”

Think about our Nation’s Founders. They understood the balance – in their personal life and the Republic’s life. Early and late, they gave and asked mercy from a loving God and each other. Jefferson and Adams, at odds for decades, gave and sought mercy from each other at the end.  

If national penalties must be enforced, mercy among Americans remains vital. Shakespeare wrote: Seeking justice alone “… none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy – and that same prayer doth teach us all to render.”

Wrote Adams, in his poem “The Wants of Man,” we all want things, as he did too. Yet: “My last great want, absorbing all, is when beneath the sod, and summoned to my final call, the mercy of my God.”

Yes, I hear the objections to showing mercy. As a former military officer, litigator, and law clerk, it has limits. But societies are not built only on laws alone. Societies have granularity, which can get lost at great cost. Showing mercy is part of that.

A healthy society depends on self-aware people, willing to get along with others, respect and have mercy on neighbors. Nowhere is that more vital than a republic, respect our lifeblood.  

So, yes, seek justice – but recall “the quality of mercy” and what it delivers. As Shakespeare wrote, it is not strained, nor hard to give. As Adams wrote, we all want it. As holy books note, we warrant it by giving it. These days, few politicians say so, but Matthew did: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  In hard times, mercy falters. History teaches we must not.

We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...

Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.

Donate Now

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and Download the AMAC App

Sign Up Today Download

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 months ago

So true! Imagine saying ‘go to Hell to someone’, it’s a terrifying thought!!

Mic J Palazzolo
10 months ago

All well and good when grappling with those who are conscientious and not psychopaths
(akin to rabid animals). When grappling with a psychopath, euthanize them with mercy.

10 months ago

“Hate is only too heavy a burden for Americans.” too light for the un-Americans

10 months ago

Great article. As Martin Luther King, Jr. was quoted as saying, “Hate is too heavy a burden.” I think that can be applied to unforgiveness as well.

10 months ago

Robert – Thank You! Your written word is always very inspiring.

10 months ago
Reply to  Mary

Thank you Mary, for reading, thinking, commenting, and being part of a meaningful conversation. My thanks, RBC

R. Stephens
10 months ago

All I know, from first hand experience, is that extending Mercy/Forgiveness to those that either have wronged you, or you perceive to have wronged you, will set you free. It will set you free from the hatred that will literally eat you up from the inside out and it will set you free to move on with your life. It will set you free to become a better you.

10 months ago

Mercy is the wrong tool when a powerful political party is doing its best to destroy the country. I can see its value once they’re subdued but not now. We were merciful to japan and germany After we won. Before, we leveled their cities. Newt Gingrich is predicting historic realignment in November, going so far as to say it’ll be the end of the FDR era. Ill be happy to show mercy to dems once they’re reduced to a rump party, but not while they’re trying to reconfigure the country in a leninist manner. Live and let live i say. Its the leftists who say otherwise.

Louis Mitzner
10 months ago

It’s one thing to talk about being Merciful, growing up I was taught to always turn the other cheek. That came to a screeching halt, when I had to return from Overseas, while serving our Country, to bury my Mother who believed in God and Jesus Christ. She was bound and gagged, while our Family business was ransacked and robbed. it didn’t stop there, One Robber decided to influence his will by returning and shooting my Mother three times in the head. I will no longer turn the other cheek, I will to the best of my ability prevent anything like this from happening ever again to a family member, friend, or innocent bystander. this is true in politics as well, Injustice comes in many forms. God gave the arch Angels Weapons – because Even the Almighty knew you don’t fight evil with tolerance and understanding.

Ted L.
10 months ago
Reply to  Louis Mitzner

Amen! As Jesus said, “an eye for an eye”!

10 months ago
Reply to  Louis Mitzner

I feel for you and your situation. Remember, God stated to leave justice and revenge on his doorstep and He will avenge. If you take it into your own hands, you will fall into the Adversary’s hand which is a part of his plan.

anna hubert
10 months ago

Mercy has to be taught what we now have is demagoguery and intolerance crudity and rudeness not a pinch of civility no use for mercy

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x