The perfectly imperfect Anne Lamott expounds on the merits of mercy in her new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy.
1. Embracing mercy for some of us can be a long road. What’s the essential step to getting there?
In my experience, any willingness to change our hearts, minds, or habits begins with feeling the pain of staying the way we are. So when it begins to hurt our lives to live without mercy, for others and especially for ourselves, we begin to be willing to be changed—softened, tenderized. But yikes! It’s a risk, because people and life can be so dicey.
2. What has been a significant moment of mercy for your own self?
Learning to love and passionately care for this aging, saggy, wrinkly, beautiful body of mine.
3. You describe how allowing mercy into your life “opens the drawer” to the treasures you’ve hid in the past. Can you share a treasure you discovered?
The most beautiful way to live is with a soft and generous heart, and, like many women, I have found it easy to treat everyone in the world, even scary men, with compassion. But in the drawer, I found a deep, abiding compassion and allegiance with my own self—my own gravely imperfect, sometimes annoying self. When we feel this, we are halfway home.
4. Some would say mercy is a sign of weakness. What is your response?
This is what we were taught as children, in our homes and in culture, because everyone wanted us to forge ahead, achieve great things, make the family look good, and feel protected by the armor or insensitivity. I believe that a rich, spacious, powerful life, full of immediacy and delight, begins when we take off the armor.
5. In light of the current state of a divided world, how can mercy be part of the solution?
Mercy is synonymous with compassion, and grace, and generosity of spirit, which seem to be the solutions to almost all our problems. It’s very counterintuitive: giving more of ourselves, our time, our treasures, makes us so much richer. To share with and be of service to the world’s poor and marginalized is the greatest fulfillment we can know.