Dear Ones —
I was talking to my friend Rayya Elias the other day (author of the addiction/recovery memoir "Harley Loco", which I've spoken about many times on this page.) She was telling me about getting arrested for possession of heroin one day (as she had many times before) and ending up before a judge known for his harsh sentences. Rayya was guilty as hell. She was a full-out drug addict at the time, and living on the streets. She was the perfect picture of a lost cause. She probably looked like every other junkie the judge had ever seen — and in some ways, she was like every other junkie the judge had ever seen.
But in some ways, she wasn't.
When Rayya stood in front of the judge, she asked him if she could speak, and he allowed it. She bowed her head, and said, "Judge, all I ask of you today is this one request: Please give me mercy, not justice."
I got chills when I heard this.
Rayya was admitting her wrongdoing, and admitting that — as a criminal — she deserved punishment under the eyes of the law. But as a human being, she was asking for mercy, instead.
The judge gave her mercy. He put her in a rehabilitation center, instead of the three years in prison she "deserved". And now she is Rayya Elias — author, musician, hairstylist, realtor, sister, neighbor, traveler, bringer-of-joy, trusted friend. She is everything in the world except the junkie she once was.
I struggle with forgiveness — toward myself, toward others. It's what I struggle with more than anything. When I feel that I have been betrayed (or feel as though I have betrayed myself), my reaction is firm, fast, and unyielding. My chin goes up, my heart closes down, my indignation soars. I can sometimes be a very hard judge. I get all tied up in the details of what other people did wrong (or what I myself did wrong) and then I cast down my judgments in name of unyielding fairness — in the name of WHAT IS RIGHT. You guys, I'm serious: I can be a real cold-hearted hard ass sometimes — and to myself, just as much as to anyone else. (Actually, to myself worst of all, at times.)
I forget that sometimes we need mercy in this world more than we need justice. All of us need it. You need mercy, I need mercy, the junkie standing before the judge needs mercy, and the judge himself needs mercy, too.
This doesn't mean that you allow somebody to physically or emotionally abuse you. That's a different story. In that case, the only solution is to leave, to protect yourself. (The ultimate act of self-mercy, I would say.)
But as for many other situations — the kind of situations that get me all fired up and morally indignant — well, there may be some room for grace. More room than I may think, when I am preaching right vs. wrong.
So this is my Sunday prayer: Lord, teach me how to show mercy before justice — to others, and to myself, as well.
Have a beautiful day, everyone,