The Dirt of Mercy

Aug 19, 2020 | Grief, Love, Wisdom

“The Medicine released into the world, into Life, Light and Love,
that comes with authentic forgiveness,
can be likened to the mirror-twin, the opposite, of an atom bomb, an exponential infusion of Grace and Light radiation into the world, penetrating all barriers, affecting every element of creation.”— Pat McCabe, Navajo Elder


Like a dance partner hoping to be asked, the word mercy has waited like a wallflower in my hall of prayers.

Dr. Jill Biden used it in her speech last night to the Democratic National Convention. “We’re coming together and holding on to each other,” she said. “We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted.  We’re seeing that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite.”

Mercy. The word ricocheted from the TV screen and bounced around my living room; my heart reached for it. OK, let me look at you, I thought.


A Litany

I’d felt compelled the past week to recite a litany of petition for mercy as I water-walked at dawn while the neighbor’s rooster crowed, a solitary woman in a baseball cap and sunglasses, churning through the crystal blue waters of my backyard pool.

My litany of mercy was witnessed by the towering Royal Palm, the lush lemon tree with the curled leaves, the crimson Bougainvillea, and the bright yellow Lantana. Oh, and the big marble fish at the end of the pool. I swear the Mourning Doves on the fence halted their cooing to listen.

  • Mother of Love, have mercy         
  • Mary Magdalene, beloved of Christ, have mercy,   
  • Grandmother wild woman, have mercy,
  • Lady Death, have mercy,
  • Kyrie Eleison,
  • Christe Eleison

Traipsing back and forth in the over-warm water, broiled by the morning desert sun, I mused, what in God’s name is mercy and why am I asking for it?

“Hey Siri,” I said this morning, “what’s the definition of mercy?” My iPhone internet wizard with the sexy Aussie voice answered, “Mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”


Punishment and Hurt

Huh. The past few years, I’ve felt punished for having liberal, democratic leaning values. The phenomenon mushroomed when President Trump was elected, but began during President Obama’s time in office. It took off as the tea party germinated.

A family member who I keep in my heart treasure-box like the most precious of jewels defriended me on Facebook because of my pro-choice views on abortion. Another family member I adore quit playing Words with Friends with me when I mentioned in a social media post that I’d donated to Planned Parenthood. Yet another cut me off because I voted for Obama and expressed anti-racist views.

Not isolated incidents, they are representative of this time. Just two weeks ago, a family member sent a foreboding, threatening video through Messenger that communicated, the religious right is coming for you, you aren’t safe, after I shared my support and understanding for the Black Lives Matter protests.

These darts hit their mark. They intended to punish and to hurt. Rarely, I’ve lobbed the darts back. I wish I wore a thicker skin and was able to brush off these losses of connection when my attempts to build bridges failed. But I don’t.



Not knowing what else to do, I have held images of these family members in the cave of my heart. Droplets of water from an unseen source glisten on the darkened walls and drip into pools of love that sooth my sorrow, at least for a while. Hurt people, hurt people, I’ve told myself.

I have prayed for mercy for my imperfections. I’ve prayed for my family to know I’m doing my best to follow my heart. I have hoped the invisible fiber optics of light that connect the universe would carry the pulse of my love to them and that they would feel how much I miss them; how much I grieve for restored and easy relationships.

I long for their mercy.  I long to give them mine without reserve.


From the Dirt

Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier wrote the tune, “We Need A Little Mercy Now” and I love her performance of the potent lyrics. Her voice is like dirt, deep, gritty, and, well, dirty in a way that gets under your nails and stays with you. Her words,  rise from the loam of it like tough green shoots cracking buried seeds.

“My brother could use a little mercy now…The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow.”

It feels like that to me like we’ve reached such a pinnacle of self-righteousness and judgment that life can no longer sustain it. Bitterness has shattered the gossamer and fragile threads that once held together so many friendships and relationships.

“Every living thing could use a little mercy now…Only the hand of grace can end the race toward another mushroom cloud.”

One acidic question has burned in my gut.  If democracy dies, if my beloved country disappears into the looming mushroom cloud of totalitarianism, will I be able to forgive family and friends who voted for and to this day, defend the policies and behavior of the current Republican administration?  My inner moral compass registers that many of these policies and behaviors are corrupt, based in fear and hate.

When I get scared or outraged, the bile rises in my throat and I’m not sure I can find the mercy to forgive.

When I pray; when I find inner peace, I know that of course I can.  I can detect a broken heart when I’m around it. I know essential goodness when I sense it. I can look past beliefs, thoughts, and fearful behavior.

I can find the hallowed ground, the Grace that Jill Biden pointed to, the respect for healthy difference and the universal certainty of infinite love. Mercy can do the rest.

“We hang in the balance, dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground. And every single one of us could use a little mercy now…”


Forgive the Unforgivable

In the book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times, the author, Dr. Anita Sanchez writes, “The elders teach us that to be a whole human being is to live with the original knowledge of our connection to all and to orient toward the springtime.” The first, and necessary sacred gift is to “forgive the unforgivable.”

We are in Shakespeare’s “winter of discontent.”  If we survive, and find ways to forgive the unforgivable, whatever that means to each of us, the springtime of mercy will bloom.

Images of thawing dirt, budding tree branches thickened with life and weather swinging between the lion of winter and lamb of spring come to mind. Fits and starts. Frosts and thaws. Snow one day, rain the next. Rain, rain, and more life-giving rain.  Tears, tears, and more healing tears. And then, the lush warmth of a summer of peace.

I associate summer with Peace Roses, like the ones that grew under the kitchen window of my childhood home, that my mother loved and tended with care. I stood often in the dirt of the flower bed so that I bury my face in those roses to inhale a fragrance like no other.  Those roses were Medicine for the Soul, swirling hues of  red (power), yellow (optimism), cream (purity), pink (love) and peach (warmth) into a blossom of soulful beauty.

I’m praying for the springtime of mercy and a summer of peace.

“I love life, and life could use a little mercy now.” – M. Gauthier

Copyright, Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D.

Photo of Peace Rose: Courtesy of iStock

Pat McCabe and Anita Sanchez quotes from Sanchez, A. (2017). The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times.  New York, NY: Enliven Press.

Lyrics from “We Need A Little Mercy Now” by Mary Gauthier Copyright: Karen Schauben Publishing Administration

Dr. Linda Sandel Pettit, a priestess-at-heart and retired counseling psychologist, can be found at Linda loves putting her intuitive nature, spiritual understanding and clinical experience in service to others. She is available for both short and longer-term on-line consultations. For information about fees and packages, visit BOOK NOW. For more information or fee assistance, email her at