Proverbs 11:17 says, “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”
Like so many biblical principles, the more we obey, the more blessed we become. It turns out that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. (And we all know how lovely it is to receive.) When we extend ourselves to others, whether it is to our own little people or to the stranger or to our neighbor, our own souls prosper. This means that we are the beneficiaries of our own mercy. Give a helping hand, and we are helped. Forgive a debt, and our hearts are enlarged, able to forgive more. So we might be tempted to start showing mercy just so we will ourselves be blessed! But I think that’s the whole idea. Want to do good to your own soul? Show some mercy.
Now mercy is usually tied to acts of forgiveness. Someone wronged you. By extending forgiveness, you are showing mercy. This is not something necessarily easy. We don’t go along la-la-la-la-la bestowing forgiveness as though we were sprinkling pixie dust. Forgiveness is acknowledging that the person did indeed wrong you, and it is promising that you will forget all about it. You will act as though it never happened. You will never bring it up again to anyone. That is showing mercy, and it has a healing effect on both parties involved.
On the flip side, when we are hard-hearted, cruel, unforgiving, and unmerciful toward others, we receive more trouble in ourselves. Our hearts get harder, our “flesh” is troubled. Life gets more complicated. Bitterness festers and grows. We turn into trolls.
Mercy may be hard to show. It may require great amounts of prayer and grace. But it brings life and peace and a tender heart. It is a great good in itself, and it brings great good to our own souls. Let’s get more of it and spread it around. Be merciful. Forgive. And receive God’s blessing.