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Err on the Side of Mercy

  • Terri Camp Home school author and mother
  • 2003 28 Jul
Err on the Side of Mercy

Bryan had taken his place beneath the pool table after doing something he knew was wrong.  My mind began to whirl as I tried to figure out what to do with this naughty little boy who would hide beneath the pool table, trying desperately to avoid the wrath of Mom.

Just as I was feeling my blood begin to boil at his stubbornness, a phrase uttered by my friend who had been to a Mark Hamby talk entered my mind:  "Err on the side of Mercy."

I knew at that moment it was the answer for Bryan.  I was to err on the side of Mercy.  Instead of my customary, "Get into the bathroom young man!"  I crawled under the pool table and sat beside him.  He stopped being angry for a minute and smiled at me.  Perhaps it was the idea that Mom was sitting beneath the pool table all scrunched up just to talk with him.  I’m not sure what was going through his head at the time, but I know what was going through mine. 

I was scrunched up and didn’t want to spend a great deal of time in that uncomfortable position.  "So, how are you doing today, Bud?" I asked him.

"Not good!" He replied. Progress is being made!  He went from crying and grumping to speaking!  He scooted a little closer to me.  Then he put his head on my shoulder.  It was almost like he was telling me, "Thanks for coming to my place.  I just need to talk."

Thinking perhaps it’s a good opportunity for a moment of spiritual growth, I questioned him, "Do you know what happens to bad boys?"  I figured he would say, "No," then I would have the opportunity to tell him how important it is to have the Holy Spirit living in you, so that you can call upon Him to help you not make the bad choices in life.

Instead, he quickly answered my question.  He said, "Bad boys grow up to become BAD GUYS!"

"Yes!  That’s right. If little boys don’t learn how to call on the Holy Spirit to help them, they will grow up to become bad guys.  You don’t want to be a bad guy do you?"

When he hesitated answering my question, I thought perhaps I was in a bit of trouble.  Here I was sitting under the little pool table having a philosophical, life-changing moment with my son, and he’s hesitating about if he wants to grow up to become a bad guy.

I gave him a moment to reflect.  He then said to me, "If I point this way (pointing to the right), I will be a good boy.  If I point this way (pointing to the left), I will be a bad boy."

I couldn’t believe he was doing this!  Doesn’t he know it’s not an option?  I wanted to shout at him, "You don’t get to choose!  You MUST be good!  There aren’t any other options!"

That’s when the Lord in His oh-so-gentle way said to me, "I let you choose."

But what if Bryan chooses to be a bad boy?  What would I do then?  Would I have any options left?

If I truly want my children to walk with the Lord throughout their lives, then I must be the one to show them what He is like. 

Suddenly my mind was flooded with the times that I have tried shaping Bryan by telling him he didn’t have any choice.  How wrong I was!  He does have a choice.  He was born with a free will, just as I was.  I simply don’t want him to make the choice he makes.

The battle now rages in my mind.  How can I be merciful and forgiving, while still training my children to walk the way of the Lord?  Can I be merciful when my children make the wrong choices? 
How can I ever get my children to be obedient the way I want when I want them to, if I am practicing the art of Mercy?

I don’t know that I have an answer to that question.  But, I know that for now, Jesus has requested me to be the example of Him in their lives.  And He wants me to err on the side of Mercy.

Bryan interrupted my thoughts, "I will choose ... " he hesitated a moment; "I will choose ... " Then with great fanfare he pointed to the right!  Immediately he hugged me, then said, "I’m ready to be good!"

I then felt the Lord minister to me again, "See!  I do it with you!  Do it with them!  Err on the side of Mercy!"

In addition to devoting herself to her husband and the eight children she home schools, Terri also enjoys writing and speaking to offer encouragement to women in an effervescent, humorous way. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her at