Friday, January 6, 2012

The Mediator

We've had some drama in our little community that has gotten national attention and as I have read stories and comments about the situation that has taken place, I have felt my blood pressure rise several times. I've had a tough time not "getting involved" and defending a guy when he's down. I have thought long and hard about what to say, how I could be supportive without being controversial. Here's what I came up with. Now I'm just a small part of this whole process so I doubt many will see this. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this whole problem.

I was you. So many of you, quick to call out an injustice and demand payment for a wrong committed. I knew the offender because of the few mistakes that he had made. I knew that he was a terrible person, he must be, why would anyone do such a thing. I knew that he deserved more than he could ever pay for. That whatever punishment he received, it wouldn't be enough. Then on June 22, 2007, my life changed. Again, I was you. I knew this man was evil, terrible, every bad awful word I could think of. I knew him because of his mistake. Then I really came to know him. He had children. He had a bachelors degree. He was educated. He served in the armed forces protecting my rights to freedom. As a young child, he had seen his mother shot and killed by her boyfriend. Did I really know this man? But how could I not know him? I was sure that I knew because of the one mistake he had made against me. Surely this man, who had done such a terrible thing, surely he hadn't ever done anything good in his life. And surely now that he had committed this terrible injustice, surely he couldn't ever be a good man again. And as loudly as I screamed for justice, he cried for mercy. Justice is usually pictured holding a set of scales and blindfolded against the possibility that she may be partial or become sympathetic. There is no sympathy in justice alone—only justice! “In the course of justice [only,] none of us should see salvation.” One mistake-justice and mercy. Mercy provides a probation, a penitence, a preparation. One mistake-justice and mercy. How can both be satisfied. "Each of us lives on a kind of credit. One day the account will be closed, a settlement demanded. However casually we may view it now, when that day comes and the foreclosure is imminent, we will look around in restless agony for someone, anyone, to help us. And, by eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption. Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing." I was wrong. This man deserved mercy as much as I demanded justice. This man had made a terrible, horrible mistake. A mistake that took my brother's life but that doesn't mean that this man is a bad person. That doesn't mean that his life before our paths crossed was a terrible, crime-filled life. That doesn't mean that his life after his mistake will be filled with crimes against society. What it means is, he made a mistake. I have forgiven this man. How? Because one day-or everyday-I will make a mistake. I will plead for mercy even though justice must be served.

And here we are, being a judge everyday of those around us. Judging who a person is by one or two fleeting moments when their lives might impact ours. And here we are, being judged by others for the few fleeting moments that our lives touch theirs. What if I make a mistake in those fleeting moments? Does that mean I always was and will forever be a horrible, terrible person. No. What if you make a mistake in those fleeting moments, doesn't that mean you always were and forever will be a horrible, terrible person. No. So when we make mistakes-and we will-, a cry for mercy will be sounded. However, justice will also be knocking at the door. We as a society have the power to provide both-justice and mercy. You will surely remember this as you make mistakes, mercy, mercy, mercy. But also remember this as people around you make mistakes. Justice is being satisfied, now is the time for mercy.
(excerpts taken from The May 1977 Ensign Magazine entitles The Mediator by Boyd K. Packer and William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, IV. i. 199–200.)