I used a term the other day to describe a patient of mine “spicy.” I obviously was not using it in the version of taste, but of temperament. The kitty did not like us. He had sass. He was “spicy.” I thought it was a more agreeable term than “cranky” or “nasty” or other terms.
It wasn’t derogatory. It was acknowledging the innate nature of the being. All of us respect peppers, right? We know not to cut them and then rub our hands in our eyes. We know if we are unfamiliar with the pepper we take a tiny bite until we know how much to respect it’s power. A tiny bit of pepper can add a blast of flavor to a recipe. A pepper is not innately bad, it just needs to be respected for its potency. I liken cats who are “opinionated” to that.
My techs liked this term to describe a cat. They created a scale of “spiciness.” They said I was “chipotle” because I had just stood up to a client who tried to attack me for the fact her pet had an illness another vet in the practice had been unable to diagnose. I calmly and respectfully explained that there are not always easy tests, sometimes we have to investigate further and it can require multiple tests. Sometimes problems aren’t easy and don’t have easy fixes. She was looking for sympathy and I gave it to her. I also didn’t give in to her. There’s a difference. Earlier on in my career, I would have given her a ton of sympathy and I would have been made timid. According to my tech, there was no timidity in that room. There was controlled spice.
In life, we are called to be merciful and just. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into one or another camp. Everyone gets mercy, “it’s all good, it’s all ok” or rigid justice. It’s sometimes hard to separate the two, and it’s often on emotional issues. Just look at current events. I need not say more.
We are called to be a people who seeks justice. There is such a thing as righteous anger. There are things so horrific that they need to be called out and there needs to be consequences. At the same time, there needs to be mercy.
Parenting also calls for mercy and justice. It’s a hard tightrope to walk sometimes. When my kid does something bad, I know there needs to be justice, but I so want to give him mercy. When my patients get “spicy” I can give them a calming pill. There’s not something like that, nor should there be, for my 5-year-old.
Justice is difficult with parenting. While you don’t want to make rash, emotional judgments, you know that whatever the bad act was needs to be responded to immediately or else the kid won’t understand cause and effect. Without a response, they may not understand that there is a consequence for the action. I find mercy is easier to give as a parent. I want my kid to do right, to heal and to know he’s at heart a good kid.
If the left hand is justice and the right hand is mercy, they need to work together. Like a jalpaeno and cream cheese. My son actually likes slightly spicy food and I do as well. We are not called to be a “bland” people. We are also not called to burn the tongues of others.
Do you have any recommendations on balancing mercy and justice in family life?
Copyright 2018 Meg Herriot