EDITORIAL: First things first

By NEMS Daily Journal

‘Blessed are the merciful …’ requires a higher priority
“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus told his disciples in what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, “for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7).
In a world where each of us individually and all of us collectively are imperfect, mercy would seem to be the first order of business, no matter what one’s belief system. Yet, outside of soup kitchens, confession chambers and other official dispensaries, mercy too often seems in short supply.
As a nation, we set up public figures in politics, entertainment and other fields only to delight in knocking them down.
If their offenses are amusing enough or enraging enough, such imperfect folks and their families can expect to be reminded perpetually of their failures by TV talking heads, newspaper scribes, innumerable bloggers and Websites. The explosion of technology has only made the problem more inescapable: Cameras are everywhere, and youtube is forever.
Alas, it is not just in the national arena that mercy is in short supply. Internationally, saber-rattling, grudges and other forms of unforgiveness perpetuate hatreds and mistrust between countries that could readily benefit from each other’s cooperation.
Such behavior may be the pure insanity of madmen and the mass hysteria of their followers, the calculated power grabs of modern Machiavellians or the hatred perpetuated by feuds so ancient as almost to be part of their devotees’ DNA. In any case, the utter absence of mercy – even the recognition that mercy is an option – takes a terrible toll in human misery.
In the personal arena, we foster grudges from grade school and try to embitter others toward anyone we think has hurt us. We thrive on gossip, slander and the anonymity of Internet forums that lets us slash with abandon at those who don’t see the world exactly as we do.
Perhaps it’s too easy to forget our own shortcomings. Perhaps it’s just too tempting to use others’ failings either for procedural advantage or to taste the malicious deliciousness of feeling superior, whether to an acquaintance or to some hapless hack on daytime TV. Perhaps our lack of mercy stems from hatreds so ingrained that to give them up would destroy our own identity.
But imagine the civility – personal, community, national and worldwide – that could be fostered if suddenly we were as eager to extend mercy as to point fingers, and if we more readily recognized our own need for mercy.
Mercy could be the balm that heals miserable lives, broken families, resentful communities, warring nations and a threatened world. Like many another ancient concept, mercy is an idea whose value has never been more evident.