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The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained

A pop quiz: What play does the line that's the title to this piece, come from? For extra points, who's the playwriter? For extra extra points, who is the character who speaks the line? For extra extra extra points, what does the line actually mean? (CLUE: I was actually in the play during a former life, and I heard the speech many times).

To my ear, "mercy" is a lot like "kindness" and I can confirm that (at least, in my experience) kindness is never strained, calculated or forced. Kindness is spontaneous, and sincere-- and it's understood as such, by anyone who's on the receiving end of a gesture or word of kindness.

Centuries later (that's a clue) the notion of mercy has evolved, even though the legal system remains more or less the same. The "mercy" of years gone by is now known simply, as "kindness"-- which is a natural human response (for some). It is not a formal declaration of compromised judgment, or credit for good time served.

Kindness is never "strained", and the speaker of the line knows it. I believe she (yet another clue) knew exactly what she was saying, but in her day and age, kindness (or mercy) wasn't something that was popularly accepted-- especially if the would-be subject was someone, "other than".

Perhaps, kindness is still too "soft". Perhaps, respect for others is viewed as somehow being too "soft". Perhaps, civility and basic human decency is just too "soft". Those mistaken notions go a long way toward explaining two plot twists in the play in question, that are downright perplexing-- it also explains why the legal profession remains so resistant to the implementation of wellbeing initiatives in law firms.

The quality of mercy (kindness) is strained-- has for a very long time, been strained-- in the legal profession. When will that change?


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