Mercy and Grace: Long Forgotten Virtues? - by Susan Jane Smith BSc

Susan Jane Smith B.Sc

          Who thinks about mercy these days?  My recollection is that in the days of yore people would ask for (and sometimes receive) mercy when on the pointed end of a sword. 
          I’m not sure if anyone thinks about granting their partner mercy in an argument and maybe we all need to think about that. 
         My husband certainly goes for the jugular in his desire to ‘win’ rather than trying to negotiate a mutually acceptable outcome.
          This approach brings out the worst in me!  All my professional knowledge flies out the window.  In the 16 years that we have been together I have learned to stand my ground.  I try to stay assertive.
          What tends to happen is that I am more articulate and he ends up feeling inadequate so tries to bully me and I see red.  Lots of deep breaths on my part as I try to get us back on track.  When I step back I see an interesting power imbalance – just don’t ask me to do it at the time.
          What happens in arguments with your partner?  Have either of you ever stopped to think about your style of dispute resolution? Do you see a need for improvement?
          Could people actually employing the concept of mercy change the world?  I think it would.  More negotiating and fewer feuds?
          Obviously I recommend people read my books EmotionalHealth for Emotional Wealth and Pre-Marital MOT: A Relationship Inspection.
          Harriet  Goldhor  Lerner  Ph.D. wrote  her wonderful books The Dance of Anger and TheDance of Intimacy so please do take a look at them.
          YouJust Don’t Understand  by Deborah Tanner is also a must read for anyone in a relationship!
          Grace in Christian theology is the love and mercy given to us by God.  Even though not religious, I can see that if I behave with grace I might occasionally grant mercy to my husband in an argument.  Will I?  Will you?

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          You might find my weekly blogs on my website interesting and you can get a free copy there of What a Functional Family Might Look Like which is a useful ‘road map’ to guide you if you grew up in a dysfunctional family – there is no need to repeat generational patterns so please do give it a read!


Lynne Garner said…
Good post.

I know I don't think about mercy as a concept.

If there are disputes in our house rather than shouting either the house gets cleaned or the dog gets a long walk!
One of the most useful pieces of advice I ever heard along these lines was that women will complain and expect a little sympathy, (which is what women so often offer to other women) while men will immediately offer solutions: 'I feel awful' - 'well go and see the doctor' - when what you actually want is for the man in your life to say 'oh dear, sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea/fetch you a drink.' As soon as it was pointed out to me I realised the truth of it - plus the unreasoning rage that the 'solution' inspires! Husband saw it too, to the extent that we laugh about it now - and it's something I've passed onto my son!
Susan Price said…
Yes, I recognise that all too well, Catherine. I complain about something I'm struggling with, and am immediately offered two or three solutions by my practical Scot. I rage because I've already thought of them! And rejected them for one reason or another. Does he think I'm so thick I can't come up with the obvious solutions!
As you say, what I'm looking for is sympathy about how difficult it all is, not solutions I've already dismissed.
Any advice on this, Sue?

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