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Does showing mercy make me a doormat?
If there is someone who I know is abusive or entitled, I can choose to believe the best about them without getting involved in their life.
So they [Jesus and the Disciples] left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. (Mark 6:32)
How can I show mercy when people are just going to take it as permission to treat me like a doormat? Is that something you’ve ever wondered? Is that part of the reason why you’ve hesitated to be merciful to people in your life? For protection?
Believe me, I get it. And in some cases it feels completely true. If you are dealing with someone who has a history of mistreating you and others, it’s scary to think about being kind to them.
But let’s get clear on a few things about mercy and kindness and abusive people.
Abusive people exist.
There’s no denying it. And all of us have encountered them. Maybe some of us are involved with an abusive person right now. Whether those people are abusive intentionally or abusive through their own personal entitlement, they are a drain on our emotional resources.
While there is no specific Bible verse that says “Thou shalt not be a doormat,” there is an overall expectation throughout Scripture that an individual person will practice self-care. There are so many examples throughout the Bible of God followers needing to step away from ministry for a season to rest, and I believe this is applicable in how we deal with potential abusers.
Sometimes mercy is simply believing the best about someone. Choosing to not hold someone else’s behavior against them or to expect them to repay you in some way because of how they’ve treated you—that’s forgiveness. That’s mercy.
Many people have hurt me over the years in many different ways, but I’ve chosen not to identify them by their behavior. I’ve chosen to see them as a hurting person who is lashing out because he or she doesn’t know how else to cope, and I happened to be unfortunate enough to end up in their paths.
That doesn’t make it all right. Not at all. But it’s also not my job to mete out justice. The Lord sees. He’ll deal with it.
If there is someone who I know is abusive or entitled, I can choose to believe the best about them without getting involved in their life. I can show compassion. I can choose to speak of what is good about them to others rather than gossiping about how they have hurt me.
I don’t have to be their friend. I don’t even need to stay in the same room with them, especially if it’s healthier for both of us to go our separate ways. But that doesn’t mean I should talk about them behind their backs.
It’s not duplicitous. It’s a boundary, and boundaries set in accordance with God’s Word are healthy.
You are not a doormat. You are God’s precious child.
And because you can have confidence in how God sees you, you can choose to believe the best about others—even if you have to do it from a distance.
Questions for Reflection
When was a time when showing mercy on someone backfired on you?
If showing mercy has ever backfired on you, how did God ultimately use it to bless you?
Why do we believe that showing mercy to someone has to mean getting personally involved in their lives and allowing them to mistreat us?
Weekly Memory Verse