Despite your response to a question on April 30 in this column, I can cite a variety of cases where the one extending mercy was indeed “higher” than the one receiving that mercy. Can you further explain your contention?

Yes, there are many examples of one person as “higher” than another in mercy, such as a judge reducing a deserved sentence of a person who is convicted of a crime.  Yet, mercy in general is going beyond what is deserved to aid someone who is suffering.  Such aid need not imply, in every case, that the one who is exercising mercy is somehow higher than the other. 

Here is an example: Let us suppose that a judge just got into an auto accident.  The judge is hurt and needs help.  Now, here comes a driver, who is a convicted person on probation.  The convicted person is late for work, under pressure, but nonetheless stops his car to aid the judge.  This is costing the convicted person who now is going beyond fairness (after all, he could simply call 911 and move on) to help the judge, who is supposedly the “higher” person. 

So, mercy is not always a moral virtue in which the “higher” person aids a lower person.  If you think about it, by our use of the word “higher” in these examples, it always involves not some kind of spiritually higher situation, but instead only a social role situation.  If we look beyond social roles, no one is higher than anyone else.  Thus, mercy is the attempt to alleviate the suffering of another, regardless of social role.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

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