‘Strength’ and ‘mercy’ are not words we commonly link together. Especially in the business environment, we have a tendency to relate to ‘strong leaders’ but what about ‘merciful leaders?’
To have mercy is often seen as a state of weakness and giving into one’s actions. Yet in reality, mercy requires the utmost amount of strength; mercy is powerful compassion. Mercy is strength and kindness together. It is empowerment and gentleness at the same time.
Abraham Lincoln, as he was preparing the United States for life after the U.S. Civil War in 1865 said, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
While we are often called to be merciful towards each other, the one we are least merciful to is ourselves. Instead, we practise harsh self-judgement. Our inner thoughts and criticisms get fuelled by the words, pictures, and stories that encompass our daily lives, convincing us of what life and ourselves ‘should be.’ The photos on Facebook of our high school classmate’s holiday, our co-worker’s promotion highlighted on LinkedIn, or the night we spent watching movies instead of going to the gym.
How does harsh self-judgement make you feel? What opportunities does it open?
Most of us have not practised mercy towards ourselves with the amount of effort and diligence that we practise harsh self-judgement. The key is that it takes great self-empowerment to practise mercy. Someone who is disempowered can’t be merciful.
Mercy also requires a genuine understanding and awareness, and at some stage, forgiveness of our own ignorance, our mistakes, and for other people’s too. It is understanding and being powerfully connected to the human condition in such a way that we do not reject ourselves or others for being human.
Like a tall tree standing in a dense forest, we are continually tested by the winds, the cold winters, and others around us. Yet, we do not resist and fight against our environment. Instead we bend and blow in the wind, allowing the breeze to carry our seeds to further places. We adapt our presence during cold winters, not judging our appearance and knowing that warmer, more fruitful days are ahead. We embrace passersby, providing shelter and nurturing compassion. All the while our roots run deeper, our reach wider, and we grow stronger.
You are both merciful and powerful. The first step to realizing your capabilities and opening opportunities may be to show yourself some mercy. What good is it if you learn to practise mercy from being merciful to others when you teach cruelty and self-judgement to yourself? Your calling is not to punish yourself, but to make positive change.
Take some time to reflect on the above piece and then write a few things down. If you like, you can keep these notes close to you for the next week or two, and add comments to this reflection as they occur to you at any time of the day.
Notice how insights come at different times and places, and how quickly we forget our own wisdom if we don’t mark it down and take time to look at it again later on.
All of us, we show up differently in different parts of our life. No matter who we are, there are probably some areas of our life where we are more open. That’s what we want to look at.
- Where in your life are you willing to be more open, more impacted?
- Where are you more willing to let yourself be with your feelings?
- Where are you more willing to be strong and kind / gentle and empowered?
Just take a moment to consider. I bet some of you can probably think of things. I’ve heard people say things like when they’re with their dog or when they get to visit their grandchildren or when they’re in a certain place they love. But no matter who we are, there some places in our life where openness comes forward. Where is that for you? Just think of a few of them and go ahead and jot them down.
If you can’t think of any, sometimes just be quiet for a second, let go of the question and then come back to it and this will allow you to see something new
Tune in as you consider these times and places, as you read these, as you look at them:
- What does that feel like? What does it feel like when you’re more that way? Particularly how does that feel different from how you usually walk around in the world?
- How are you when you’re in these places of more vulnerability, open-heartedness, willingness? How does that feel different to the usual ‘me’ functioning and living?
- See what you can notice about that. Just take a moment and write down some impressions.
- What are you noticing now? How is thinking about this affecting you now?
- Where would you like to experience more of this?
- Are there areas in life, certain relationships with people where you really wish you could be more of this openness, realness, immediacy?
Working to develop your self-mercy practice? Comment below and share any tips or resources you have found helpful.
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