Henri Nouwen was himself a very successful author and professor before giving his life to the less fortunate. He did it because he was called to it. He cared for a profoundly disabled man whom he cared for until the man died. Nouwen wrote several books and many meditations. He spoke here of being merciful to ourselves.
We need silence in our lives. We even desire it. But when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing "noises" present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger our many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face.
What are we to do? Jesus says, "Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13). Sacrifice here means "offering up," "cutting out," "burning away," or "killing." We shouldn't do that with our lust and anger. It simply won't work. But we can be merciful toward our own noisy selves and turn these enemies into friends.
Mercy to our "noisy selves." I'd never heard it put that way before. Our frenetic pace and the many voices we hear drown out the still, small voice of God which speaks peace to us. The world speaks to us like this, "You're not enough." "You've got to get busy." "If you keep messing up, God will have no use for you." "I'll never be good enough." "I'm a lousy parent." "Why can't I be more than I am?" "This is not the life I'd planned to live." On the other side of the noise are these voices, "I deserve this." "Don't bother me. I've got my own life to live."
Then God speaks softly of our value to Him. "Life is worth it because I AM worth it." "You are My child." "I love you no matter what." "You can begin anew today." "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
If we would quiet our noisy selves, the sweet Spirit of God can speak so we can hear. Perhaps, then we can be merciful to ourselves.
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son..." (1 John 4:10a)