Subtle Works of Mercy

how to be merciful in every day life

Sometimes I look at my life, and I don’t know whether hypocrisy or irony is screaming louder. I write about mercy, because I believe whole-heartedly in its power to change lives. And, in a broader sense, the world. That is not hyperbole. It is a truth that exists regardless of whether we acknowledge or believe it.

Despite my enthusiasm, doing works of mercy sometimes feels like a struggle. You would think in my zeal, I would embrace them with a, “Woo-hoo! Here’s another opportunity for me to serve!” attitude. But often my “woo-hoo” sounds more like, “Woe is me.”

Frequently the service we are called to do is organic. Like the produce in the grocery store, organic always costs more. It has always felt easier to serve when I plan for it, choose the capacity, and have had a shower. When someone else’s misfortune interrupts my plans or to-do list, it can be frustrating.

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Practicing the Mercy I Preach

Recently, I took my mom to the doctor because she was sick. I tried to be peppy about it despite my manic-Monday mentality. My mom was pleasant and chatty on the way to her appointment. Instead of gratitude for her attitude, I begrudged it for being better than mine. After all, I was the healthy one.  Why wasn’t I bubbly and bright? Maybe she should have been driving me around!

After her appointment, I took her to the pharmacy and waited while she had her prescription filled. By this point, I had to use the bathroom so badly I figured I had given myself jaundice. I kept wondering why serving is so hard. I wasn’t suffering other than the self-induced kidney conundrum. I read a magazine while I waited. Why was it so hard to do this small thing with joy when my mom has done countless things for me?

Mercy is Often Inconvenient

The answers vary from my innate flaws as a human to complete culpability that I am despicable. It’s a work of mercy to care for the sick. I write about works of mercy. I feel drawn to them despite their disruption to my day planner. Why isn’t this easy for me?

But maybe the answer to that question doesn’t matter. Maybe what is significant is that I did it anyway.

Of course, I wish I did it more selflessly and joyfully knowing that I was doing something pleasing to God and helpful to my mother. For my own sake, as much as anyone else’s, I wish I welcomed every opportunity to serve knowing that the mercy I extend has been extended to me 1,000 fold by our Heavenly Father.

But, I am not there yet, at least not as often as I would like.

It’s Worth It

My mom thanked me when she got out of the car. Maybe it was because my task was complete, or jaundice had reached my brain, but I felt gratitude. What a blessing it is that my schedule is flexible enough to help her, that I can follow her example of service, that she is alive, and the cadence of her pleasantries, despite her discomfort, was enough to distract me from my selfishness.

While I often feel inept at works of mercy, the rewards of doing them are always worthwhile. Finally, a woo-hoo!

In what subtle ways do you practice the works of mercy in your life?

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Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She is currently working on publishing her first book about her mid-life mission to do works of mercy. Find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    September 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Thank you, Lara, for your post. I appreciate your thoughtful reflection.
    As I read, I thought of how I am with my family. How can I be more merciful to my husband and our children? I realized that sometimes mercy is what we do, and sometimes mercy is what we don’t do. Do I refrain from flying off the handle with our children, from justifying my actions to my husband? Do I refrain from being self-centered when a more valuable use of my time would be to spend it playing a game with our youngest son rather than do something I want to do for myself? I find that I need to be more merciful in these ways and to have a good attitude about it, too. I need to be joyful when I serve, knowing I am serving Jesus Himself when I serve others.
    Thank you again, Lara, for a wonderful article on mercy.

  • Reply
    Lara Patangan
    September 12, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    You nailed it, Mary! I agree sometimes what we don’t do is as important as what we do. Especially when it comes to sharing God’s compassion with others. One of the works of mercy is to be patient with others and it can be much harder than feeding the hungry! I love the merciful heart of Jesus, and I want to imitate it. But often I miss the mark, but I know God sees me trying and extends his mercy to me! It really is a beautiful thing! Thanks for bringing up such a good point!

  • Reply
    Amanda Haas
    October 10, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    I remember there was some social experiment where people were way more likely to help people if you told them they had tons of time to get somewhere vs when you told them they were running late. It’s funny how people love being kind when it’s convenient, but when we feel overwhelmed it’s the first thing to go. I’ve been trying to work on practicing patience because I’m definitely guilty this.

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