Mercy is blessing others with our compassion and forgiveness. We are touched by their suffering and want to help. Justice is giving people what they deserve. Mercy is giving them more. We are merciful when we give ourselves and others a fresh chance after an offense or mistake. Nothing inspires hope so much as a clean slate. When we have the humility to remember the countless mercies we receive throughout life, we find it in our hearts to show mercy to others. We offer the gift of our tenderness.


The quality of mercy is not strain’d; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

— William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venic

 The Practice of Mercy

  • I am compassionate and forgiving.
  • My heart is moved by the suffering of others.
  • I overlook mistakes.
  • I give others and myself the chance to start over.
  • I am thankful for the Divine mercies I have been shown.
  • I treat others tenderly.
Definitions and practices of virtue are used with permission from the Virtues Project™.

In Family Life

In the tapestry of family life, the virtue of mercy is woven with threads of compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. It manifests itself in the gentle embrace offered to a wayward child, the patient ear lent to a struggling spouse, and the willingness to grant second chances.

Mercy is demonstrated through acts of kindness, such as offering comfort during distress and the art of letting go when forgiveness is sought. Mercy in a family is a beacon of hope, reminding each member that, in the imperfect dance of human relationships, a sanctuary exists where love and understanding can always find a place to flourish and heal.

Balancing Mercy

Mercy, a virtue characterized by compassion, forgiveness, and the gift of a clean slate, holds a special place in the realm of human virtues. It can bring about immense positive change in our relationships and communities when nurtured appropriately. However, like all virtues, mercy can be taken to extremes, either overdeveloped or underdeveloped, which may lead to unbalanced outcomes.

To keep the virtue of mercy in balance, several other virtues play a crucial role:

  • Justice: Justice ensures that mercy is not applied arbitrarily but fairly and equitably. It helps in determining when forgiveness is appropriate and when consequences are necessary.
  • Wisdom: Wisdom helps discern when to show mercy and when to apply justice, considering the specific circumstances and consequences of one’s actions.
  • Courage: Courage is needed to show mercy when it is the right thing to do, even when it may be difficult or unpopular. It also helps in standing up for justice when necessary.
  • Humility: Humility reminds us of our own imperfections and the mercy we have received from others, fostering a compassionate and forgiving attitude.
  • Compassion: Compassion complements mercy by encouraging us to empathize with the suffering of others and actively seek opportunities to alleviate it.

When balanced with justice, wisdom, courage, humility, and compassion, mercy is a precious virtue that can transform our lives and those around us. It’s essential to avoid the pitfalls of overdeveloping or underdeveloping this virtue, as finding the right balance is key to its effective expression and nurturing healthy relationships and communities.