Justice and Mercy

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” – Psalm 23:6

This beautiful phrase from the Bible comes near the end of the prayer that begins: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When it popped into my mind today, I thought it was “justice and mercy,” but on looking it up, I found the above translation.

I had been thinking about my essence, and how it informs my writing, after a workshop I took this weekend with Corey Blake at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. In Corey’s interactive exercises, I zeroed in on the important role judgment and forgiveness have played in my life. Justice and mercy are my touchstones. But there is a very subtle difference between justice and judgment, isn’t there?

In my memoir, Off Kilter,  I wrote about learning to stop judging my mother (and myself) and to just do what makes me happy. I recalled an incident from my childhood. During recess in elementary school, I was unjustly accused of a malicious act that was an accident. The school principal was a nun who showed me no mercy. She had me stand beside her at the entrance to the building as all eight grades of students streamed indoors, staring at me on the way to their classrooms.

Until that day, I was a “good girl.” I tried very hard to do what was expected of me. But it didn’t matter to Sister Principal. And so, for the first time, I understood what it felt like to be one of the “bad kids,” the ones who were held up as examples of how not to be.

We rarely saw what these kids had done that was so bad. We only saw their embarrassed or defiant faces as our principal put them out for public viewing like criminals in the dock.

And now I was just like them. From good to bad, in an instant. I threw a snowball at another girl, aimed at her back. She turned and got it in the face, and there must have been ice inside, because her nose was bloody. I apologized, crying just as much as she.

My pleas went unanswered, and I wondered how guilty the other “bad kids” were. Did anyone ever stop to consider whether they had meant to do wrong?

I was so traumatized I never stepped a wrong foot again in that school. I knew that my intent would not matter if my actions caused damage.

Have you ever experienced a personal injustice? What did you learn from it? Does it matter to you if people misjudge you?

Let’s talk about it. Comment below.

6 thoughts on “Justice and Mercy

  1. Oh, yes. Big time. I coped by closing a door on an important part of my life and moving on to totally new things. Maybe that reflects a lack of “processing” the negative events and interpersonal ruptures, but that would take an awful lot of processing and life is short. I want to live mine without regrets over stuff I can’t change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post, Linda. So thought-provoking.

    Injustice? You bet. So many times, in so many ways. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons why I’m a bit of a hermit now. I don’t believe the world is fair in the short term… but I have great hope for eternity.

    And I have been misjudged. (And probably misjudged others.) That is perhaps the most painful of all, but I’ve learned it’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind when they’ve decided who you are. I’ve also learned that although I am not without fault and over the years I’ve had to make some big apologies, when someone truly misjudges me it almost always stems from some unresolved wound in the person doing the judging and not me.

    Someone once said that what other people think of us is none of our business. I believe that, although it’s hard to practice when the wounds are deep. Something happened just recently, as it happens. I explained how my friend was mistaken, she remains convinced she’s right and I’m wrong. What can I do? I release her with affection and leave the door to my home unlatched, in case she ever wants to return.

    See what you did, Linda? You made us all write and think about these things. Well done. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your comment, Lauren. It seems the world is full of judgment these days, and I like your practice to “release with affection” and “leave the door unlatched.” May try that one myself!


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