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In Search of Mercy — The Best You Can

in search of mercyThoughts of mercy and forgiveness keep invading my headspace in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. I’m sure it could be attributed to the plentitude of graces being poured out in this Extraordinary Year, but I do often hear His message of Mercy resonating frequently throughout these days.

I recently finished Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, which I’ve been waiting for from the library for 6 months +. {It’s a hotcake right now!} She’s a researcher who speaks on the subject of shame and living wholeheartedly. Her thesis is roughly something like this: Although many consider shame a negative experience, it is, in fact, an avenue to growth, to living in a more wholehearted fashion.

When speaking of shame, I was always return to thoughts of John Paul II’s “naked without shame” that he speaks of in the Theology of the Body. He says that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were “naked without shame”, that they were able to see each other in the fullness of who each was without any desire to “use” the other for their own pleasure or gain. Shame came into the picture because, with the Fall, there was now a tendency to view the other person as a means to an end, a means of use, not as the gift that they are.

Shame serves the purpose of guarding the gift, of guarding the goodness in each of us that is now capable of being misappropriated. We feel a sense of shame when either we sense another might be reacting wrongly to what we share, or even when we ourselves might be not loving/appreciating the goodness within us the right way.

Shame also appears when we see one who does not regard the gift of themselves or another in the right fashion, behaving in a manner that does not reflect goodness. It raises our hackles to see someone behave in such an abominable manner.

As Brené points out, our reaction to another is often an awareness of this related fault in ourselves. We feel shame at their behavior because we recognize the tendency in ourselves, which, in turn, can make us act out in our own shameful manner. But, she suggests, a better reaction to the shame we feel should be to take this opportunity to recognize the shame for what it is and grow into a better person because of it.

The opportunity for forgiveness often comes from a place of shame. Hurt caused by another certainly causes us shame. Being used instead of being viewed or treated as the gift that we are, as the goodness we possess, brings up that place of shame. That “nakedness” has been rejected and misused in one way or another. One response is to wallow in that shame and hurt. Another, and better, response, is to seek forgiveness and growth from the bad encounter.

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One of the things that struck me while reading her book, was an anecdote she related regarding an encounter she had with a roommate at a conference she was attending. This roommate was chosen for her; she didn’t know what to expect. Upon entering the room for the first time, she encountered her roommate engaging in some quite unsavory behavior.

Her reaction was shame. Her reaction was disgust. Her reaction was anger. She began lashing out at others because of her feelings of shame.

She recognized this feeling and sought to slow it down and heal from it. In speaking to her therapist, the therapist suggested this to her: Perhaps the roommate was doing the best she could at that moment in time.

My initial reaction to this suggestion was just like Brené’s — yeah, right! But think: what if in her current state that was all she could muster? That she really wasn’t capable of any better behavior.

This is not to let people off the hook, including oneself, when falling into sinful or disgraceful behavior. We must hold people accountable.

But thinking of this notion that one is doing the best they can at that moment–if I was doing the best I could at that moment–doesn’t that make forgiveness and mercy just a little more accessible? 

When I’m working through the process of forgiving another, one large obstacle is the thought that they didn’t live up to my standards. And maybe they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t live up to their own.

But if I was to give that person grace and consider that what they did was possibly the best they were capable of that moment? Doesn’t that act of generosity make the process of forgiveness just a little bit easier? Doesn’t it make it just a little more accessible when I have that block in my heart that doesn’t want to let go of the hurt they caused me?

As I said before, I’m not suggesting that we not hold another accountable, or that we shouldn’t establish better boundaries {if that needs to happen}, but rather that we give a little grace, a little compassion. I think it would make our hearts a tad lighter and more inclined to complete that process of forgiving another.

And perhaps, even more so, we need to apply this to ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations or standards.

I like to think God’s mercy and forgiveness perhaps looks a little like this. He looks past the shame, the hurt, the bad intentions, the pride, etc. and chooses to focus on the good that is always there, the good that He placed in us at creation.

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As the title suggests, Brené’s book is about rising strong when we feel kicked down on our face either by another or by own selves. It is about finding a space to rise from the shame, the hurt, and return to a place of wholeheartedness instead of wallowing in our fragmented state.

“Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted.”

God wants this for us. He wants us to be whole, not broken and fragmented. He wants us to be able to rise from whatever has kicked us down — be it the hurt of another or the hurt of own selves.

This Year of Mercy is about rising strong. It is about healing ourselves, healing our relationships, making ourselves whole again, rising from our brokenness. Seeking forgiveness from a place of generosity–considering the actions of another, the actions of own self as the best one is capable of at that moment–will help us on this path of mercy.

3 Thoughts on “In Search of Mercy — The Best You Can

  1. I am really pleased to read another Catholic who has read Brene Brown. I have almost finished,’Gifts of Imperfection’. God bless. Lucy
    http://WWW.fromthecoalface. WordPress.com

  2. Pingback: Mercy Mania! Learning From Others | Prayer Wine Chocolate

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