n this month of gratitude and thanks, we look at the word Merci as it relates to “thanks” in French, but has evolved to “mercy” here in America meaning compassion or forbearance. Merci comes from the Romans meaning ‘wages’, as in a favor. As human psychology would have it, whenever someone does a favor for us- we typically return the favor tenfold according to psychologist Robert Cialdini.
This could explain why you get so many donation letters around this time of year with a small gift of pre-addressed mailing stickers. The hope is that you’ll return a donation larger than their gift. As it pertains to “Mercy” though, like when we ask “lord have mercy on our souls”- we feel indebted to Him to do better (at least for a little while).
We ask ourselves how does giving thanks, showing gratitude, and asking for compassion or forgiveness all fall into this category of “merci” or “mercy”? There is a great tale that many of us are familiar with called “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” which coincidentally takes place in Paris, France.
Let’s look specifically at Disney’s beautiful animated depiction of this story. The team of artistry, music and acting is one to be admired. There is a scene where Quasimodo, our hero, decides that today will be the day he ventures out to the Festival of Fools after being locked in the bell tower his entire life. In his adventure he is quickly accepted and rejected, only to be left at the mercy of his master, Frollo. However, an act of defiance from an outcast gypsy woman named Esmeralda proves to be the true meaning of compassion here as she holds no debts over Quasimodo’s head for freeing him at that moment.
What it teaches us is that empathy can give you the power to act with compassion and bravery. It doesn’t have to be met with a favor. If we look back at this year, we will recognize that many people have done just that, as if an event of this year was the key to unlock the magnitude of their voice. On the subject of voice, Esmeralda taught us it only takes one voice or action to evoke change and thought amongst the masses. Mercy doesn’t have to be at the hands of those who hold the power when the power to have empathy, show compassion, and bravery is capable in all of us.
A more relatable example may be if you’re the provider or giver to a child or pet. We don’t typically expect anything in return in our responsibility for these living creatures, especially when they’re new to the world. However, we show mercy everyday for them because we love them unconditionally. We’re grateful to have them for whatever reason whether that’s legacy or companionship.
How do we show gratitude? There are many ways, but like the old adage says “action speaks louder than words”- creating, inclusion and acknowledgment are just a few. When we create, we pay homage to the form in which we want to be creative and to the people who will receive our creativity even if the creator is the only receiver. What’s meant by this is that gratitude has no boundaries and should always be extended to the self. With inclusion and acknowledgement, we show gratitude for differences even if we don’t understand them simply because we have compassion or mercy and the power to elevate.
Language is another way to show gratitude. This could literally mean another dialect, but it could also mean the subtext, the silence, the hand gestures and the preferred languages of an individual. Let’s look at the 5 love languages- Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. How we speak doesn’t necessarily equate to how others do. Simply knowing someone else's language and practicing it with them everyday shows your appreciation, love and gratitude for them according to love expert Gary Chapman. Here is an example of each language:
- Words of Affirmation: “I love you!”, “You mean the world to me!”, “You’re so handsome/beautiful!” and other compliments.
- Quality Time: Undivided attention with no distractions like phones and television. Keeping dates and plans.
- Gifts: It can be physical gifts, but generally cost does not matter. It could be a sweet note, bringing home dinner, or even a handcrafted gift which are all thoughtful.
- Acts of Service: Taking away the burden of your partners chores.
- Physical Touch: Can be sex, but is more about physical presence, hugs, kisses, cuddling and holding hands.
These are not easy to keep in practice with your partner or loved one, but it shows a lot of gratitude and thanks to keep trying. To discover your love language you can take a quiz at 5lovelanguages.com.
Let’s not forget about the self! That’s why we have #selfcaresundays. It’s important to show kindness and understanding to oneself by taking a pause to invest in self needs. Self care may look like meal preparation, a spa day, a day of rest and relaxation, or simply taking a day to do the things you want to do.
Being thankful for the wealth you have whether that’s currency or knowledge, is also showing compassion for yourself and others. Wealth of currency can come in two forms: Money and time. The difference between them is, money will come back but your time won’t. What makes time more valuable is that we don’t know how much of it we have. Consider how you spend your time on activities, hobbies, your career, your loved ones and yourself. As for knowledge, never take for granted the wealth of education that is available and waiting to be learned. Whether you’re book smart, street mart, both or wise- we must be thankful that knowledge doesn’t have to cost us anything but that the cost of knowledge is everything.
As we get deeper into this month of merci/thanks, gratitude, and compassion- take a pause to give thanks to others and yourself. Invest in what counts, as this year has given us a wealth of knowledge and experience to know what really matters in this life. Learn from Esmeralda and understand that mercy doesn’t have to be limited to the most powerful. Continue to stand in solidarity with those that uplift you and keep your head held high. Be grateful for all this year has taught us. Prepare to move into the New Year as the best version of yourself: evolving and transforming yourself to what you’re growing into. On one level, you’re already whole, perfect and worthy of love.
On another level, there are certainly things that can change and improve. We hold this paradox in our personal growth journey… always.
Finally, know this: we are very grateful for you.