Across the land, a raft of cultural activities is being promoted this year in celebration of our Shakespearian literary heritage. The Bard’s keen observation of human nature in all its complex interactions ensures that the themes of his plays still find resonance with the modern audiences around the world. He provided us with many pithy sayings that have been absorbed into our everyday conversations and his richly descriptive phrases slip easily into our vocal narratives.

In pausing to explore the deeper meanings we may discover a personal challenge behind the elegant composition of words. In this quotation, Shakespeare presents the balance between justice and mercy.

“Though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice none of us shall see salvation. We do pray for mercy and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.” (The Merchant of Venice: Act 4, scene 1)

In one of his parables, Jesus admonished a man who was forgiven great debt, but who failed to reprieve and bless another man in like manner. We are all in need of the deeds of mercy from God and from fellow men. Sadly, we live in times when the deeds of mercy are often thwarted and overwhelmed by deeds of hatred. How are we to teach our children the sublime value of humble self-sacrificial love that reaches out, heals, builds bridges and restores? How are they to see purpose in offering themselves at the forefront of reconciliation and peace?

Education may be the key to a better future, but where does education begin? It begins in the home and it begins in the heart.
At the touch of a button, a whole universe of information becomes accessible for good or ill, a slim hand-held pandora’s box of metal and plastic, provoking thoughts, pushing ideas.
But, it is still the little observations in family life, the daily interpretation of attitudes, the example of personal living that filters into the porous minds of our young ones as they rub alongside their elders. As family members we need to monitor the emotional brew for toxic elements.


“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Nelson Mandela.

Resentments may begin like baby creatures, small and containable, but growing insidiously, feeding daily on suppressed anger and misunderstanding. Finally they become a destructive force, or contort into dysfunctional relationships, so difficult to restore. Yet, there is always hope in open honest discussion, and in the soul-searching moments of prayer, there comes the cooling breath of patience, tolerance and forgiveness. As we remember that others need to forgive us too, we can ask for help as Nehemiah the prophet did in a prayer of thanksgiving, “You are a forgiving God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”


“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A Clark

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” D Carnegie

The cutting edge of criticism can cause deep wounds that fester from childhood into adult life. Healing comes from affirming parenting and friendships, where confidence can be restored and self-worth renewed.To know oneself to be a child of God, born to a purpose, to have the opportunity to perform deeds of mercy and to create moments of relief and joy, is to be at peace with oneself and to proceed with a mandate for useful living.

If our young ones can observe that we find contentment in blessings, celebrate talent and effort, seek the common good, serve with compassion and exercise fairness, then they too will light the beacons of loving kindness.

Thomas a’ Kempis said, “Those who love take on anything, complete goals, bring plants to fruition. They keep burning, no matter what, like a lighted torch.”

Iris Niven.

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