As husbands often do, I screwed up. I didn’t lose thousands of dollars, have an affair or forget to pay our mortgage. My transgression was far more mundane but it was a breach of trust with my wife and she was hurt. It happened on a Sunday morning at church no less, and anyone within a few feet of us knew she was not happy with me. I was apologetic but she was angry and had to leave. The church service began and about mid-way through, Sandy came back. She came back, sat next to me, held my hand and said “I forgive you.” Not another word was spoken about it and the day proceeded as if it had not happened. There was no, “you better not do that again, or else…” statements or silent treatment. I had received mercy – I didn’t get what I deserved. My mistake was covered. My world was rocked and I’ll never forget that experience for as long as I live!
My good friend, Dom, was the senior executive for a manufacturing firm, which employed a range of employees from unskilled laborers to highly educated engineers. The company’s policy was no fighting and the consequence of fighting was immediate termination. Despite the policy an altercation occurred on the shop floor. Dom had the responsibility to handle it and brought the primary offender into his office. The employee knew what was going to happen. In the conversation, Dom asked the employee to change seats with him and have him sit in his seat, the boss’ chair. Dom invited the employee to enter his world and asked him what decision had to be made in this instance according to the company policy. The employee said he had to be fired. Dom stood up went over to the employee, put his arm around him and said, “I’m not going to do that.” The employee’s world was rocked and he didn’t forget the mercy he experienced. He became an advocate for management on the shop floor.
Mercy, not doling out what may be deserved or called for, is a powerful gift. As servant leaders, we are called to strike a balance between mercy and accountability and when done wisely, we can rock someone’s world and change their life forever. It’s a risky move for a leader to grant mercy because it could potentially bite you but the benefit is you win an advocate, have a new and stronger voice in your shared work and earn mercy yourself when it may be needed.
How have you experienced mercy in the past and how did it rock your world?
Where is a bit of mercy called for today?