Mercy, as Fr Keenan defines, is "the willingness to enter the chaos of others to answer them in their need." I sat with this definition for a substantial length of time, trying to grasp it more deeply and let it shape my beliefs. It was captivating because I never thought that mercy goes beyond unconditional forgiveness. Now, understanding this term anew, what would it then mean in the experiences of everyday life? What does entering into another's chaos do for the person in chaos? What is the significance of God's first entering into my own chaos?
Entering into chaos, into imperfections, is a very scary idea. Especially for people with a special OCD (obsessive compulsive behaviour) that finds security in order - and in that, to control one's life and hold it in order. What fear insecurity then brings when one enters into chaos - be it the chaos of another person's life or even his own.
Chaos has been what I have tried in many attempts to avoid. Even those of my own. In fact, it begins with escaping from my own chaos. It is hard to see what is not good about myself, the good that I know I should do but somehow do not choose to do, and the bad that I know I should not do but somehow unwisely choose to do precisely so. It is hard and I do not want to see because of my expectations of myself. And perhaps, more fundamentally, because I have developed a phobia towards imperfections, which have an incredible ability to cause me deep wounds. Maybe, even trauma. When I find myself caught in painful situations I cannot run from. And when I do not seek and receive the healing I so need, then with every choice I get to fight or flight when threatened to be badly wounded again, I will most certainly choose flight. And I flee by building walls to keep the threats out. Emotionally, they have no access to me, and will have no means to harm me.
The larger problem arises when flight is not an option. When I am caught in situations involving people I cannot keep outside the walls. People I care about and who I cannot - though sometimes I try to - throw beyond the walls. In such situations, it is like an ant trapped in a box. It hurries in all directions trying to get out of the box, to be freed, but there is no way out. And it continues to scurry around, tensed, fighting for its life.
Similarly, when I am trapped in the box of other people's chaos while I actually do not wish to embrace this cross, I will feel most insecure and anger, being the disguised fear, will cripple me when any random person does anything - small and big - that puts me in a threat of getting hurt. Anger begets anger, a growing reservoir waiting to pour itself out as soon as anyone pushes the trigger button to open the floodgates.
How is any of these life-giving to me? The very refusal to enter into my chaos and the chaos of others in the attempt of self-preservation backfires (always) and depletes my life on the contrary.
The only life-giving choice left for me to make then is to stop resisting and rejecting chaos, since our human nature in itself is chaos, and to begin to embrace the courageous pilgrimage into the depths of chaos.
Alright, so I shall accept my imperfections. I shall extend mercy towards myself. I shall try to work on the areas that need transformation. And that's already a whole lifetime's project for myself. Why should I enter into the chaos of other people? Especially when they are the ones who have done great wrong, and who have caused me excruciating pain?
(to be continued...)