At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: But he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh”Proverbs 11:17
In this proverb, the merciful man is contrasted with the cruel man. The cruel man is the one who inflicts pain on others, and takes pleasure from the fact that he has the opportunity to do so. The merciful man does the opposite. He does not inflict pain on others, even when it could be just and right to do so.
Mercy is not giving someone something that they deserve. Grace is giving someone something they don’t deserve. Mercy operates in the context of something that has been demerited. Grace operates in the context of something that has not been merited. If one of your children was standing around waiting for dinner, and you slipped them a twenty, that would be grace. They had not earned it, but they hadn’t demerited anything either. But if that same child had carelessly broken something that cost twenty dollars, and agreed to pay to replace it, but then you intervened and said that you would take care of it, that would be mercy.
Now it is obvious that the merciful man is doing good to the one to whom he shows mercy. And it is also obvious that the cruel man is doing harm to the one upon whom he is visiting his cruelty. But that is not the point of this parable.
The merciful man is doing something good for his own soul. Extending mercy is a grace that offers kindness kickbacks. And in an analogous fashion, cruelty boomerangs. Kindness to others is nourishing to the one who is kind. Cruelty to others is destructive to the one who is being cruel.
When someone is cruel to others, one of his punishments is found in the fact that he has to be . . . him.