The gift of mercy can be a rough gig. I used to say that all women go around with a broken heart. I was merely projecting this particular spiritual gift onto everyone because my heart regularly aches for those around me. Now I realize that almost anyone with the gift of mercy carries a heart that is wounded on behalf of others. And I also know now that not everyone has this gift. The world would be a quite different place if they did.
But as is the case with any spiritual gift, immaturity can hamper its effectiveness. Spiritual gifting is given at conception. Maturity is earned the hard way. I never cease to marvel at some of the unique and immense giftings of those around me. But I also grieve when that gifting goes to waste because of a lack of character or simply a lack of knowledge.
Sometimes I think the gift of mercy requires a tremendous amount of courage. I suppose living out any gift does, but a person whose primary character is built around compassion faces a lifetime of pain. The question is not whether an empathetic person will suffer, but whether they will be wise enough to manage and contain that suffering.
For myself, the enemy chose to wound this area quite early on in my life. My response to the mean bullies in my early years and to the even meaner bully I married was to dissociate. I couldn’t bear my own pain. But in rejecting my own pain, I often gave myself wholly to the pain of others. I was too easily drawn into their tragedies as a way of avoiding my own.
So I have learned a few things along the way about how to use my mercy gift wisely. After all, the purpose of such a gift is to provide comfort to the hurting as well as to extend grace to the hard-hearted. It is Christ’s mercy that draws us and those of us with a gift of compassion act as Jesus with skin on to the hurting and scarred hearts out there. So here goes:
Mercy-Givers crave loyalty.
If you have this gift, you do not give up on friends easily. In fact, you intend to keep all of your friends your whole life. That is what a friend is to you; a life-long commitment. But the weakness hidden inside this loyal heart is that we often take up causes that are not ours. If someone we love is harmed, we bear a grudge. In fact, while we often forgive those who harm us too quickly, we can easily fall into a deep hatred of those who hurt the ones we love.
Mercy-Givers are sensitive to the emotions of others.
Most empaths I know can sense the mood in a room within minutes. Even more than that, we can sense who is suffering and possibly even from what as we interact with people we know and even those we don’t.
But the flaw of an immature empath is that we can lean too much on our emotions and intuition. We are too quick to believe that our emotions accurately gauge a situation. My husband has the spiritual gift of teaching. This means he loves accuracy and analysis. We act as a much-needed counterbalance to each other. I am so grateful for his logical way of going about life, and he is often grateful for my understanding of relationships.
Mercy-givers are gentle.
Gentleness is an important trait, especially in this violent world. I have seen people healed emotionally simply by being treated with tenderness. Mercy-givers lend a much-needed calm to a tempestuous world.
And sometimes we lack a spine. We tolerate evil or abuse because we don’t know how to say no. Boundaries are actually emotionally painful for us to establish. The way to grow out of this is to face the truth that a lack of boundaries can cause significantly more suffering for everyone involved. Tolerating wickedness does not save anyone from pain, but actually can bring much more. Sometimes being merciful means saying no.
Mercy-givers often seek out prophets.
My other gifting is prophet which means I am often torn between a need to say the truth and the need to make people feel better. But those with a mercy gift are often attracted to truth-tellers. Opposites often attract, even in the spiritual realm, and those who are empathetic often seek out people who are unafraid of telling the ugly truth when they need to.
And the flip side is that empaths will avoid those they deem insensitive. Avoiding conflict is natural for someone who is motivated by compassion. Ironically, however, those empaths who weep over the hard-hearted will go out of their way to avoid someone who hurt their feelings. Insensitivity is the unpardonable sin in the eyes of an immature mercy-giver.
Mercy-givers need intimate relationships.
More than most of the other giftings, a mercy gift needs close friendships. Often they have close relationships with their pets and have a few rescues as well. Physical affection and quality time are two common love languages although that is not set in stone. Empaths need a few close relationships to feel grounded. A miserable marriage, while difficult for everyone, is particularly devastating for a mercy-giver.
Because of this need, those with this trait often fall into a number of relationship traps. If an empath does not have a well-defined sense of self, they can easily merge with others, losing their identity in the process. Sometimes a person motivated by compassion can get possessive and struggle with jealousy as they watch those they are close to getting their needs filled elsewhere. A mercy-giver desperate for love can also fall easily for an abuser. Many of the people I know with this gift, male and female, get taken in by abusive people who know how to play on the sensitive heartstrings of the empath.
Of Jesus’ disciples, John most clearly demonstrated a mercy gifting. He wanted to call fire down on the heads of the people who rejected his Jesus. He wrote about God’s love almost exclusively, focusing on forgiveness and grace. He was the one leaning on Jesus in the upper room and his closest friend among the disciples was Peter, a prophetic personality if there ever was one. He called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved because his heart was ever tender towards his Master.
I think the reason that the book of Revelation was given to John precisely because of his mercy gift. Revelation is filled with tribulation. A prophet without the gift of mercy might have been tempted to miss God’s heart aching over His rebellious creation. Prophets, at least immature ones, desire justice at the cost of love. John, as a mercy-giver, did not separate justice from love because the first cannot exist without the other.
So fellow mercy-givers take heart. I mean that literally. Take your large hearts and dedicate them to the much larger heart that created them. God wants to love others into the kingdom through your generous, kind, and peaceful presence on this earth. But the only way this works is if your hearts are submitted to the Holy Spirit who can help you navigate a cold hard world.