Surrounded by five precious friends who were part of our church small group and all ten years my senior, I had no business piping up about graduation open houses. The ladies were bemoaning the fact these events are a ton of work. As a young mom with only two elementary-aged kids at the time, I had no wisdom on the subject whatsoever. However, I was such a punk, I let those lovely ladies know that the wisest amongst us (presumably, me…) would never stoop to such a ridiculous, wasteful and unnecessary cultural trap! I let them know it was a huge waste of time, money and energy to obsess over painting the garage, updating the landscaping, buying new patio furniture, string lights, table décor and yard games, spending hours arranging the most Pinterest-y photo displays that no one looks at, and cooking expensive impressive foods for the throngs of friends and family who’d really all prefer to spend their Saturdays elsewhere. No, we, the smart parents, will forego the event, save the three thousand dollars and just hand the savings over to the undeserving grad (I mean, is high school even a REAL accomplishment these days???) and call it even. “It’s all a stupid game of competition,” I said, “And we’re not playing it!” Voila!
Three hours later in fit-full attempt at sleep, I realized how reckless my words had been. I suddenly realized that one of the sweetest ladies in my group actually had a child graduating that spring and was in the very midst of planning his graduation open house.
Me and my big mouth.
It took all my courage to call her the next morning and apologize. (Is there anyone who LIKES to be wrong and LIKES to apologize??? How I dreaded that phone call!) I told her I had overstepped and it was uncalled for. I apologized for talking about something I knew nothing about and that I had no business judging others for their decisions on that issue.
And you know what she said? I’ll never forget it:
“Cindy, don’t worry about it! Not for a second! Your words maybe stung for a second, but you know what? I know your heart and your heart is good. When you know someone well and you know they would never intentionally hurt you, you just let stuff like that go. Don’t worry about it. You’re my dear friend and I love you. I forgive you.”
Mercy. Lord have mercy. She offered me mercy.
Oh, precious friends – what if we offered the same thing for one another today? Why are we throwing words arounds like darts to the people we know and love the most – people with whom we actually DO life together – and wounding one another with our words? What if we actually trusted the goodness of those that we know and instead of resorting to name-calling and assigning evil intent, we simply doled out mercy like ice cream on a hot summer day?
What if we stopped letting Rachel Maddow, Tucker Carlson, Chris Cuomo and Sean Hannity (or ALL the many opinion-based news outlets) tell us who is “evil”? What if we raised our collective voices and said, “NO! You sucker-punch pundits – you don’t get the right to tell me who my enemy is. These people here? These people are my family, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my fellow church goers – I KNOW these people and I KNOW THEIR HEARTS!!! And YOU, you talking-head who knows absolutely nothing about these lovely people in my life, YOU don’t get to tell me they are “evil.”
What if we raised our voices against those who are trying to divide us and said: STOP IT, YOU RATES-SEEKING OPINIONATED LOUDMOUTHS! (Friends, if there is ONE thing critical to putting an end to divisiveness in America, it’s that we learn and understand the difference between news and opinion pieces. Most mediums claiming to share news are, in reality, pure opinion and they are simply fueling the fire that stirs in the belly of their favorite fans. It’s a ratings game and our intelligence must rise above it, quite honestly.)
Remember when our kids were young and they’d tell us they wouldn’t play with “so-and-so” because all the other kids said she was “weird” or “stinky” or “mean” or whatever nasty label nasty kids give to the “so-and-so’s” of the world? Remember that? What did we tell our kids? Did we say “Yeah, that’s right. We don’t mix with the “so-and-so’s. Stay away from her, for sure!”
Instead, we bent down low, close to our child’s face and spoke plain and clear to ensure they understood us and said, “Don’t you pay ANY mind to what the other kids say about “so-and-so”! Do not judge other kids based on what a few loudmouth kids have to say! Do NOT be a follower! Make up your own mind! Get to know “so-and-so.” Sit by her at lunch and share your food with her. Talk to her and EXPECT to find the good in her. Never listen to the bullies.”
Never listen to the bullies.
Oh my goodness, Americans! If kindergartners can do this, so can we!!! Let’s not listen to the bullies! Let’s listen to each other’s hearts! Let’s give each other an attentive listening ear and even if at the end of the conversation we don’t see eye-to-eye, we still say to each other:
“Don’t worry about it. I know your heart, and your heart is good. I cannot be hurt by your words or even your actions, because I KNOW YOU AND YOU ARE GOOD and you would not intentionally hurt me. I will give you MERCY.”
Even when Washington DC can’t bridge the great political divide, I know WE can.
Peoples of America: We DO NOT have to accept this narrative of division.
We can CHOOSE MERCY.
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another.’ … Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Amos 7:9