The opportunity of mercy, part 1

Mercy is the deliberate refusal to exercise power over another.

No matter what, at some moment, even briefly, you will find yourself in a position of power. With someone at your… well… mercy. Such that your response to his clearly non-constructive behavior will influence the impact of that behavior on his life.

It won’t always look like a courtroom sentencing scene. It might be as simple as not coming down on him for saying something embarrassing or regrettable.

The eleven-faced goddess of mercy

The point is you have power over that person. And to exercise mercy is to not exercise that power. Instead, both you and that person are presented with a choice.


… a gateway into the unknown …


You get a chance to view the situation from higher up, to look beyond all possible responses and acknowledge the potential for healing made possible by mercy. Healing that allows for change, for the reparation and enhancement of our shared experience of life.

Mercy is a gateway into the unknown, a doorway out of what is comfortable and into the workings of love in the world. It’s like a sluice where love can flow into the stream of experience, and bring, clarity, growth, and positive change. It’s a chance for transformation.

And you control the lever.



A chance to evolve …


If shown mercy, that other person gets a chance to grow. A chance to evolve, having had a clear encounter with nonconstructive behaviors. A chance to see past the shields of denial that prevent clarity about his attitudes, his capacities for hurting people, his tendencies toward what is not love.

Mercy is a chance for you to join that person in his humanity, to recognize your own, and convert this mutual experience into something of value, something forward reaching, instead of just another vindication.


… a shared experience of the human condition.


It could be seen as a gift, as a moment of potential connection where previously connection had been impossible for legitimate reasons. Not intimate connection. Probably not the basis of a lasting relationship. But a basic connection set upon the recognition of a shared experience of the human condition.

It’s important to stress: mercy has nothing to do with ignoring the truth about that other person. Quite the opposite. To really show mercy you have to have a clear, realistic perspective. It requires great wisdom to show mercy properly and to gauge the right amount to show. And there may be times when it isn’t possible.


… behaviors and thinking conducive to love …


Because that other person needs to be open to it. If he’s clueless of having caused harm, or aware but unconcerned, mercy isn’t relevant. You need to be able to sense in that person some awareness of having messed up. Some desire to find a way back. Because that’s what mercy has to offer: a way back.

And once you sense that desire, it’s on you. You’re not allowed to be unmerciful. If you are, you’ve committed a crime of your own.

Because when mercy is shown, real, considered and thoughtfully chosen mercy, it provides the receiver with an opportunity to improve. To reorganize. To pull himself together and make a needed change. To gain strength in behaviors and thinking conducive to love, so that similar mercy is not needed in the future.

And no one is allowed to deny that opportunity to another.

So, mercy imposes on the receiver the obligation to make use of the opportunity. That’s important. Mercy demands an effort in the direction of maturity.


… the ascension of the species.


But instead of mercy, we tend to act on the brute need for some kind of controlled retribution—justice. Or, in moments of weakness, full-on uncontrolled retribution—revenge. In both cases we tend toward the known quantity.

The response we can understand.

The response others can understand.

Responses that are not only known and familiar, but fully quantified and systematized. Agreed upon in advance as appropriate.

And therefore, almost completely uncreative.

Very often unsatisfactory.

And far less conducive to the ascension of the species.


More in Part 2 so come on back!

The pain of pretense

The following is an excerpt from The Five Keys to Fullness of Life, now available for Kindle! 

I hope you like it.



From The Five Keys to Fullness of Life


Those of us who fear making mistakes also fear being ourselves. We don’t want to get it wrong. All those possibilities we feel, the impulses we were taught to ignore, repress, reject — they seem like unnecessary risk.

The hard-to-grasp secret is that you only get being yourself wrong when you’re not doing it. Because being yourself is the most natural thing in the world. The alternative — the only alternative — is to be something you’re not. For a moment. With certain people. Under certain circumstances. Maybe all the time.

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To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 5

Pain is an effort on the part of your full self to wake you up to the obstacles that keep it from emerging.

But upon waking, you must deal with the condition of your own house.

Moves to reorganize your context will create conflict with your whole world. Your house will shake at the foundations and all the people inside will feel it.

They may support you. They may resist you. They may envy you. They may follow you.

But change in you affects everyone around you.

Everyone has to make room for it.

Everyone has to respond.

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To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 4

Our tendency to cling to the agencies of pain comes from our fear of lack.

Of loss.

And to an underlying, even unconscious, sense of separation from the rest of everything.

From each other. From the world. From God.

From ourselves.

It’s that separation from self on which the whole thing rests. When you deny some aspect of yourself, you are cut off from the whole.


We grab onto whatever we’re used to. A known quantity. Even if it does not serve us. Even if it’s destructive.

A behavior.

A fantasy.

A situation.

A relationship.

For fear of being left with nothing.

Not realizing that our birthright and our most natural state is to live in connection and prosperity, based on the full, free expression of who we are.

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To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 3

Although we tend to recoil from pain, we also tend to cling to its causes.

It’s weird.

And it perpetuates pain.

It causes a state of lock down. We hate the recurring pain in our lives, but we do not change the root causes. In fact we repeat them, sometimes on purpose.

We don’t change the little things we can change. Because they are familiar and predictable.

We cling to life as we know it.

Because we know it.

Even if we hate it. Even if it frustrates or endangers us.

This lock down chokes off possibility, hinders vision, and creates an addiction to relief.

Not progress or growth. Not constructive, incremental change.


The temporary superficial alleviation of pain through distraction.

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To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 2

We tend to recoil from pain. So we don’t easily learn from it. It can take repeated, prolonged encounters with the same form of pain before insight happens.

From malfunctions in relationship, to taking things personally at work, to holding on to anger, to world wars.

It’s the same problem: in recoiling from pain, we move not toward balance, but toward a different form of imbalance.

And that’s guaranteed to perpetuate pain.

To make it worse. To compound it over time. To weave it into the fabric of how we do things.

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To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 1

Without darkness there is no light. Without sorrow there is no joy. Without this there is no that blah blah blah.



That’s not the point. There’s little sense in trying to explain or understand the existence of pain unless you’re going to do something about it.

The real constructive effort lies in learning how to experience it.

Because you’re going to.

Realize, however: you can engage with pain in a way that helps unlock the potential for growth hidden inside it.

We don’t have to live in fiefdom to pain.

In servitude to the exigencies of life.

Pain is a gift basket filled with vital information.

No, okay, not really a gift basket. But it’s filled with clues to what each of us needs to prosper.


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To stay in the now you have to love yourself, part 5

Presence is a kind of prayer state. The more present you are the more pure your experience of simple being.

That’s what presence is: simple being with focused consciousness.

You simply are. And you know it.

Presence is not spooky or ghostly. There’s no buzz or euphoria. It’s nothing unusual.

The fuller it is the more normal it seems. It’s just you getting up in the morning.

But really doing it.

It’s ordinary on steroids.

Really, really ordinary.

So ordinary it’s mind blowing.

It’s you and the world as they really are.

Full tilt awareness of that which is.

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Self love and staying in the now, part 4

You can learn a lot from distraction. The thoughts that keep recurring. The desires that pull you.

These things are information about how you are inside.

About aspects of you that need expression and haven’t found it yet.

In the present, if you observe, you’ll see your attitudes and orientations. The involuntary aspects of you that may or may not serve.

Stories about the past.

Stories about the future.

Stories about others.

Stories about yourself.

They show up as potential distraction. Little chances to wander away from the present into fantasy.

With work you can notice them, isolate them, heal them, and integrate them so that they no longer distort your perspective or have a negative effect on your experience.

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