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Justice, Mercy, and Other Mysteries (Also, It’s Time to Send Your Submission to Our Journal)

By Melissa McQuarrie

Last fall I talked briefly about how, in 1999, we discovered that my husband’s trusted business partner had been embezzling large sums of money and engaging in some other dishonest business practices that put my husband’s company in jeopardy and almost drove us to bankruptcy. This man had stood in the priesthood circle just months before when my husband blessed our baby daughter; we were good friends with his family; he held a position of some prominence in his ward. As the extent of his crimes came to light and we grappled with our feelings of shock, betrayal, and anger, I boiled with hatred for this man and wanted to see him punished. Excommunication, jail time, drawing and quartering, and a public hanging would not have been enough: I wanted to see him burn in hell. In such situations, check out leppardlaw.com/and take the help of expert lawyer for giving legal counseling and fight for your rights.

One night as I was praying and crying (and I was crying a lot in those days) and pouring my heart out to God, I felt the comforting presence of the Spirit wash over me, and I enjoyed a moment of stillness, peace, and love. But then my thoughts turned back to this man who had wounded us so severely and my anger returned and I asked the Lord to punish him and to make him suffer. And an interesting thing happened: the Spirit withdrew. I felt it immediately—all of that comfort, peace, and validation instantly dissipated. And I had an impression that, if I were to verbalize it, would go something like this: “His punishment is for me to decide. You need to work on forgiving him.”

It was a gentle but firm chastisement, and I thought about it a lot over the ensuing months and years as I tried to overcome my bitterness and hatred and leave justice in God’s hands. And if I were writing an essay about this, I’d go into a lot more detail about my journey to forgiveness, and include concrete scenes and dialogue, but since this is a blog post, I’ll just summarize the rest of the story by saying that because this man was an expert deceiver, he didn’t go to jail or lose his Church membership over the embezzling, and we had to settle for a partial financial restitution and his leaving the company. His wife no longer spoke to me, and she talked around town about how my husband had treated her husband unfairly. But years later, as often happens, his actions caught up with him: his wife found out he was having an affair, amongst other indiscretions—including the embezzling her husband had done when he worked for my husband—and the whole house of cards tumbled down. He ended up losing his family and his Church membership, and, because he’d been dishonest in one job after another after he left my husband’s company, his reputation was also ruined.

But here’s the curious thing: by that time I no longer cared. I’d moved on and no longer thought about this man or stewed over his betrayal. It gave me some satisfaction to know that my husband’s former partner’s real self had finally been revealed, but, as I examined my heart in light of these developments, and watched his wife come to our house and cry and apologize to my husband for having misjudged us, and witnessed the aftermath of his mistakes, I realized that what I felt overall was sadness—and yes, even pity.

Justice. Mercy. Forgiveness. I admit I’m still trying to unravel these cosmic mysteries, but I think I have a little better understanding of them now than I did in 1999. At least, I like to think I do.

What experiences have you had with justice, mercy, and forgiveness? I’d love to hear about them here, but we’re also accepting essay submissions for our next issue of Segullah, whose theme, incidentally, is Justice and Mercy. If you have an essay on this topic that is 1,000 to 3,500 words, we’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like to write an essay but are having trouble thinking of what to write about, you’ll find a list of possible topics here. For writing tips, see our Essay Helps guide, for style guidelines, check here, and for an excellent discussion about writing creative nonfiction (personal essays), see Angela Hallstrom’s post on the subject here.

Deadline for submissions is September 1st, so start writing!

About Melissa McQuarrie

(Advisory Board) grew up in Australia and California and now lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, four children, and their dog, Daisy. She served a mission in Peru and has a BA and MA in English from BYU. She loves reading, writing, and quiet afternoons. She does not love grocery shopping. Now that two of her children attend BYU and her youngest children are in high school and junior high, she is trying to adjust to this "emptying nest" stage and still wondering how it snuck up on her so fast.

8 thoughts on “Justice, Mercy, and Other Mysteries (Also, It’s Time to Send Your Submission to Our Journal)”

  1. "…if I were writing an essay about this, I’d go into a lot more detail about my journey to forgiveness, and include concrete scenes and dialogue…"

    Please write the essay! We need more of this kind of thing.

    Reply
  2. ".. I stewed over his betrayal." Oh, how I have been there, specifically in regards to my ex-husband's affair. For months I wanted sweet, hot, eviscerating justice to be meted out to him and the woman he was living with. Dreamed of justice, revenge, inflicting the pain and suffering that I was feeling.

    Then, slowly, through much prayer and tears, knowing that I didn't want to wander down the "bitter woman" path, I found that I was feeling sorry for the stupidity he had demonstrated, and poor choices he continued to make.

    Now I simply feel sorry for him – and that's all. Sometimes there are times that I want justice to burn him to a crisp, but I've read enough, and realised enough, to know that he will have mercy, and justice, eventually.

    Writing this I'm not sure I've forgiving him for lying to me, but I have forgiven him the stupidity he demonstrated. I struggle enough with my own decisions and life without adding the weight of with-holding my forgiveness on my own shoulders.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

    Reply
  3. I was complaining to a friend years ago – I don't even remember who about – (maybe a bad landlord) – and she said: "Why do you let him take up space in your mind? he is getting free rent!" Great advice if I can do it – don't let people who don't deserve your attention get 'free rent' in your thoughts!

    Reply
  4. Melissa, you are a wise woman, and I appreciate your words. I, too, hope you will share more. My little saying is that forgiveness is ultimately a selfish act — it is freeing and unlocks the Atonement in my own heart, but that knowledge (and sweet experiences with it) don't make it easier for me to do when I've been hurt.

    I think it's also so difficult when the injustices against you continue…when people stop talking to you, or make false accusations, etc.

    I try to remind myself that I just don't know enough to really play judge and jury for someone else, and that I so desperately need mercy that I need to learn to give it.

    That said, I think in the midst of these principles, it's also sometimes hard to figure out the very real need for boundaries, too. I engaged the scriptures when I was trying to understand those principles better and learned a LOT from Nephi about love, mercy, and boundaries.

    Reply
  5. Several years ago, my wife and I were mistreated so badly by the members in the small town we were living in that we had no choice but to leave. As we were moving the stake RS president told a friend of ours that she was glad to see us go. "The Church doesn't need people like that in it."

    My wife forgave them years ago, but I still check the local paper's online obituaries every morning. The thing is, now that it's been a few months since my wife's passing, I feel my bitterness almost melting away. I am starting to feel more sorry for the people who got caught up in the witch hunt against my wife than I feel angry any more. In some ways the distance of time has made those actions seem more like the temper tantrums of two-year-olds than anything else. Also, now that my wife is dead, I am not very anxious for them to join her.

    Reply

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