The Mindset Of Mercy

Jim Hentges

We have all seen this scene in an old western movie. There is a chase on horseback, the riders are moving too fast, the horse unexpectedly comes over a ridge and tumbles to the bottom of the embankment, and is now too injured to stand up. What happens? The rider shoots the suffering horse to put it out of its pain.

Unfortunately, in today's society, many have adopted this example as the best way to treat injured or debilitated people. They think it is an act of mercy to put people who are suffering out of their misery. Not only are there significant problems with this approach for people of faith and even many who don't believe there is a God, but it also shows a lack of understanding of the concept of mercy.

Suicide and "mercy killing" are both part of a selfish approach to suffering. Suffering plays an important part in human development. It leads to an increase in wisdom, patience, empathy, and courage both for the suffering person and for the family, care givers and others who come in contact with the person. Even if the people involved do not have a spiritual understanding of life, suffering serves to deepen awareness and develop strength for them on the emotional and psychological levels, allowing them to grow to greater fullness in their humanity.

Mercy should be acting with compassion toward another in such a way that benefits (spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical) will follow. Our shared humanity creates a symbiotic bond which enables the benefits of compassionate acts to flow out in multiple directions, touching many lives, which can start a chain reaction benefiting all of humanity.

Humans are not animals. We must be careful to avoid letting those who function as agents of the culture of death define our mindset.

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