If I wanted to sound hipper than I actually am, I’d tell you that Anne Lamott is my “spirit animal.” But at my age, I’m probably not cool enough to use terms like that. So instead, I’ll just say that Anne Lamott makes my world a better place, because her books are like elixirs for my soul. I’ve been hooked on her writings since my wife introduced me to them several years ago during a difficult period in our lives.
When I read Annie’s books, I feel like I’m being hugged by her words, and Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy is no exception. In fact, the words on the pages of this book are the best kind of hugs, full of love and hope and spirituality. And even though I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person, I am a big believer in love, hope, spirituality, and the comfort they bring to our lives.
In Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott explores the complicated concept of mercy. The dictionary may define mercy as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm,” but Annie’s got a better definition: “Mercy is radical kindness,” she writes. “Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable.”
Yes, mercy is complicated, but Hallelujah Anyway does a fabulous job of breaking it down so it’s easier to understand. And Annie even paints visual pictures of mercy that help you feel what mercy is. “Mercy is a cloak that will wrap around you and protect you,” she says. “It can block the terror, the dark and most terrifying aspects of your own true self. It is soft, has lots of folds, and enfolds you. It can help you rest and breathe again for the time being, which is all we ever have.” Can’t you just feel those words giving you a hug?
Showing mercy isn’t an easy thing to do in this day and age, but it’s something that’s so very necessary. So many of us are struggling and hurting, and we need to be embraced and connect with each other. Because, as Annie states, “the last word will not be our bad thoughts and behavior, but mercy, love, and forgiveness.”
Sure, people come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and ethnicities. But the bottom line is, despite all our differences, we are all human beings. And we all deserve mercy. And the way we start making that possible is to accept one another for what we are. In what I found to be the most powerful line in all of Hallelujah Anyway, Lamott tells us:
“Polite inclusion is the gateway drug to mercy.”
On the first page of Chapter One, Annie writes about “scary, unsettling times”—times “when we know that we need help or answers but we’re not sure what kind…. We look and look, tearing apart our lives like we’re searching for car keys in our couch, and we come up empty-handed. Then when we’re doing something stupid, like staring at the dog’s mismatched paws, we stumble across what we needed to find. Or even better, it finds us.”
At this point in my life, when I’m going through still more trying times, I truly needed Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. I’m so grateful that Anne Lamott put it out there for me to find. You should go find it, too. I guarantee it will make you feel better and give you a little bit of hope for the world we live in today.