The Mercy Dilemma

Sunday’s Relief Society lesson was based on a talk called Always Remember Him, by Elder Gerrit W. Gong. As I admitted to the sisters while conducting the meeting, I did not pay a lot of attention to this talk when it was given during April General Conference. But I read it closely last Saturday and was struck by its poignancy.

“Him,” of course, is the Savior. These are ways Elder Gong says we can remember Him:

  1. By having confidence in His covenants, promises, and assurances.
  2. By gratefully acknowledging His hand throughout our lives.
  3. By trusting when the Lord assures us, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”
  4. He invites us to remember that He is always welcoming us home.
  5.  We can always remember Him on the Sabbath through the sacrament.

I’m sure different people were affected by different things in the list, but the one that struck me the most was number 3.

“…shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother…” Zechariah 7:9

We can always remember Him by trusting when the Lord assures us, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

To be worthy does not mean to be perfect. Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness invites us to be humbly at peace on our life’s journey to someday become perfected in Christ, not constantly worried, frustrated, or unhappy in our imperfections today. Remember, He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us—and loves us still. (Elder Gong)

I’ve put in bold the phrases that meant the most to me in this paragraph. They made me think of two things:

First, how incredibly fortunate I am to be married to a man who has refined the action of quickly letting go of negative feelings. He (Hubby) knows everything about me and loves me still. I wish I were more like that. I try to be, but I’m not always successful, so it is nice to have such a good example of this quality in my home. I sometimes fall in the trap of thinking, “If I forget, does that mean I don’t care? Does it mean I don’t want to learn from my mistake?”

It’s a foolish trap, of course, and an easy lie to tell ourselves. You can learn from your mistakes without constantly revisiting them and letting them define you. Dr. S. Michael Wilcox, my favorite BYU Education Week instructor, talks about “Pink People.” These are the people who are not quite scarlet in their sins, but haven’t quite forgiven themselves either.  As someone who is unduly hard on myself, I admit–sometimes I’m pink.

We need to forgive ourselves.

Second, I thought of the double standard that exists in the world. The idea of “mercy for me, but not for thee.”

In a recent talk I attended, Brother Wilcox said, “Somewhere in history, it became more important to be right than to be good.”

Oh, how very true!  We see this so much on social media. The lack of mercy for people in headlines is staggering. In today’s society where everyone is judge and jury, one comment can become a runaway train. But isn’t stating an opinion our right? Doesn’t that person or company deserve it? The comments continue in a downward spiral until everyone is exhausted. What purpose did it serve?  None. Who is the victor? No one.

The popular double standard has then emerged. In the same way we don’t want others to define us by our mistakes, we should try not to do the same thing to others, including people we don’t know personally. And, even though mistakes and bad choices are not the same thing, I’m going to combine them here because the principle applies to both.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is attributed to the strong.” –Mahatma Gandhi

What an exceptional quote, and what great gifts forgiveness and mercy are to both the recipient and the giver. Guilt and grudges act like terrible weights shackled to us, when the keys are there in front of us. A little more humility, a little less pride.

There are times it can be so very hard, I know, especially when we feel we have been deeply wronged. Still, forgiveness should always be the goal.

As Gordon B. Hinckley said: Try a little harder to be a little better.

Let’s try harder to let go of that double-standard of forgiveness and not create our own mercy dilemma. Let’s remember that everyone is fighting their own battle, many of them invisible, and just doing their best.

Let’s apply the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have others do unto us.

Try a little harder. It is something within everyone’s power, including mine.

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