(Read How to Show Biblical Mercy to Our Children first!)
If you’re like me, vague definitions and principles take me only so far. I have to see them in action before I understand them. The more I practice, the more I understand. One week, I recorded examples of mercy with the biblical principles in mind that I had been thinking about. Another week I was more aware of how I lacked mercy. Here are a few of my observations:
- With a long list of chores, I told the children we would stop and take a break once their rooms were clean. When they were about three fourths done, friends came over to play. I decided it was merciful to let them stop for a break early. (I did forewarn them that when friends went home, we would get back to work.)
- After a morning repeatedly correcting my daughter for leaving toys and clothes wherever she lost her train of thought, I noticed she had left her plate at the table after lunch. Instead of calling her to get it, I figured she had heard enough of my corrections that morning, and put it away without commenting.
- One day, my son worked half-heartedly on his homework. At some point, he started working more faithfully. When all was said and done, I told him how happy I was that he had been faithful. My first inclination was to point out “Except for….” or not consider what he did accomplish, because truthfully, he was distracted about as much as he was not distracted. I think it must be mercy to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” when the job wasn’t perfect.
- I had opportunity to not bristle when a child (as if on cue) asked what I was making for dinner and then in the next breath declared the meal undesirable. I can be kind, although I’d like to say, “Tough. You can go to bed without supper if you don’t like it.” A kinder approach would be to say “Wait until you’ve tried it.”
- When my son couldn’t find his AWANA book in his messy room, I made the choice to help him look (even though he wasn’t looking very thoroughly), and made the choice not to choose that moment to lecture him about his room or being responsible to put books away properly.
- I noticed my son eating in bed and asked him, “What are you eating?” After a long pause, he said, “M&Ms.” I then reminded him he’s not allowed to do that, sent him to put away what he hadn’t eaten, and considered the matter closed. Right now, I’m working more on transparency when I ask them what they’ve done. I realize that transparency doesn’t completely eliminate consequences. Adam and Eve are a good example. But at this point, I think I’m trying to separate two virtues (telling the truth, and not doing wrong in the first place).
- Mostly I’ve been challenged to help them when they didn’t deserve help, walk them through schoolwork that they could have done without me, praise them for imperfect work, and pick up things that they have left out. As I consider the examples I’ve collected, I realize that I don’t always extend this mercy (perhaps then it would not be mercy). Showing mercy needs to have a purpose in mind. Picking up the paper plate left on the table because I was too lazy to take the time to teach my child would be indulgent. If I picked up the paper plate because I sensed that this morning my children had already been tested to their limit, then perhaps the purpose makes the act merciful.
- I’ve noticed that two of my children tend to withdraw when they need attention from their parents. This happens when my husband is working long hours, or when I’ve been distracted or sick. My first reaction is to expect them to reach out and express their need, or to give up when they resist my attempts to reach out. I’ve had much better responses when I take the time to simply find out what’s going on in their lives, what they are excited about, or what they want to do next.
- Mercy ignores the inappropriate way they express their hurt when I have wronged them. Part of me has a hard time asking forgiveness without bringing up their bad behavior, and I think that perhaps this is a lack of mercy on my part.
Can you think of any more practical examples of showing mercy that follow God’s example to us?
Exodus 15:13—Mercy leads
Psalm 31:7—Mercy takes time to understand
Psalm 86:5—Mercy sometimes given when asked for
Luke 16:24-31 Mercy sometimes asked for, but not given
Micah 7:18—God delights in showing mercy (Micah 6:8)
Hebrews 4:16—Finding mercy and help in time of need