#6 – Self-Mercy

May the message of mercy reach everyone and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy.
— Pope Francis

The easiest and yet most difficult way for mercy to reach everyone is for us to have mercy on ourselves. This may seem strange, but there is a good reason why this should happen. 

We can dream more than we can do. We can commit to spiritually grounded values, but we have trouble enacting them. It is our human make-up.

This means we are built for mistakes, a condition we have to learn to live with. Living with it means mercy begins at home. We have to extend mercy to ourselves.  

Look at our wedding vows. We promise to love for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, until the end of our days. We are convinced our dream of love is stronger than circumstances.

But living this out proves difficult. In concrete situations, the ways of love often elude us.

When a spouse irritates us, we do not know whether to blow up or keep silent.

When our son informs us he is flunking algebra, we fumble for a response.

When our heart is full, we cannot find the words to express it.

In situation after situation, our words and deeds do not measure up to the values we hold and the intentions we have.   

No sin here. Just a gap between the desires of the heart and what our words and deeds can pull off.  We are not quick enough or consistent enough to always turn our God-connected spirit into flesh and blood.   

Therefore, we have to extend mercy to our finite and fragile selves. We have to return to our dreams of love when we have not quite got them right and search for better ways to get them right. We are experiments in incarnation.     


We will always be more than we can say or do. When we have mercy on ourselves, we will sense a deep truth. The source of our self-mercy is the mercy of God.

© Jack Shea