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The Practical Case for Mercy

On Giving Others a Chance

I grew up going to Catholic school, despite the fact that my parents were not very religious. I did the altar boy thing, I went to confession, I learned the rosary prayers — the whole kit n’ caboodle.

As I got older, my belief and involvement in the church waned. One thing from my Catholic days stuck with me: mercy. Mercy in the face of repeated wrongdoing. Mercy in the face of ignorance and arrogance. Mercy again and again. For my money there were never enough other cheeks to turn.

As I adopted a more nuanced spiritual stance, that attitude stuck with me. I always retained the belief that people deserve mercy, which means forgiveness and second (and third, and fourth) chances.

Why do I believe this? Is it because I read it in the Bible at a young age? No. I’ve shed plenty of beliefs that were foisted upon me as a child. Is it because I found an intricate and airtight logical argument in favor of it? Not quite. No, I believe in mercy because I find that everyone is chasing after some form of happiness for themselves, it’s just that some people can be severely misinformed about just how to get it.

Give People a Chance

None of us knows it all — or even most of it, for that matter. We are just giving this life our best shot, and we all fall short from time to time. And we fall short in different ways. We all started with different strengths and flaws. Some of those flaws are more accepted by society than others, and we pay different prices because of that.

But I’m not here just to go on a diatribe about doing the right thing for it’s own sake; as noble as that would be. Rather, I’m here to suggest that in this case, being merciful — giving others a chance — is going to help you out too, time and time again. So give others a chance, and watch what happens.

A chance to speak

Give others a chance to speak, before you do. Yes, your voice is important,but you would be amazed at how much people will come to respect your voice if you don’t use it at every single opportunity. Instead, practice some restraint, and allow others to speak — to voice their beliefs, concerns, and desires.

At the very least, this will allow you the opportunity to gain valuable insight into your social environment, and to develop strategies and plans based on it. At most, it could help to grow your personal and professional network of relationships. Listening is good for that sort of thing, you know.

A Chance for Your Friends to Prove Themselves

We all, by and large, wish to feel understood — especially by friends and those close to us. Any good leader knows this, and you don’t have to have the official position of a leader to actually lead people; you can do that from below. In fact, sometimes, that’s the most effective way to do it, because you’re basically just letting good people do great things.

Let those close to you have chances — many of them. This is not to say you should be a pushover, rather it is to say that you should aim to be strong and confident enough to not let your emotional reactions to being let down dictate your actions at every turn. Always allow people to work to gain back trust. It need not be easy for them, but it does need to be reasonably achievable.

A Chance for Your Foes to Prove Themselves Wrong

When dealing with those who we are up against — whether in business or in personal contexts — we often feel the need to win battles by winning an argument. Often times, we will express this need by launching into monologues or arguments, where we assert our position — our feelings.

But you would be surprised by how often you can win by simply letting the other side defeat themselves. Let the other side talk, and talk, and talk. Allow uncomfortable silences — which they will often impatiently fill with more speaking.

More speaking means more opportunities to contradict oneself, which provides a near-effortless victory for you. It is like allowing an opponent to swing around their too-heavy sword until they eventually hit themselves with it or become exhausted. You end up winning without having to even draw your weapon.

A Chance for Better Understanding

Giving others the chance to speak also provides you with something valuable: better understanding. If you allow others to speak, and you really attempt to listen, you can gain a better understanding of both that person and your broader environment. Even if they blatantly lie to you, that tells you something about your relationship with that person. That is valuable information indeed.

A Chance to Do the Right Thing…or the Wrong Thing

Too often we try to do everything ourselves, rather than enlisting help because we are confident that we can get things done, and get them done better than if we delegated. But we do this at a cost — the cost not of allowing others to realize their potential. If we never allow others to do the right thing, and to do well, we lose an opportunity to get valuable help and gain valuable allies. We also inadvertently shortchange people in their personal and professional development. And why? Because we fear inconvenience? Because we fear having to do a little extra work?

As a culture, we applaud risk-taking, and rightly so. No risk, no reward, right? But this applause seems reserved only for taking risks by doing more yourself. But what about taking a risk by asking others for help? There’s still risk there. Others could fail to meet expectations, cheat you, sabotage you. That’s real risk — just like the risk you face if you try to do something yourself. The reward, however, is much better than the reward of going at it alone. You end up with a new ally. You have effectively doubled your power to accomplish things.