Abraham Lincoln on Mercy and Friendship


. . . Mercy Trumps Strict Justice
. . . Mercy Turns Friends Into Enemies

I've read about half a dozen books on Lincoln this year. And I wish I had time to read more about him.

Of the presidential leaders of our country, the top three whom I deeply admire and respect are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

I have read the most about Roosevelt, Lincoln is next and Washington will get my attention next year.

Here are two quotes from Lincoln. 

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.

Here is the connection. It is when we extend mercy rather than strict justice to our enemies, we have the possibility of "making them our friends."

Oh sure, it doesn't always work. And there are other things than mercy that are needed to reconcile those who are enemies. Like sacrifice, speaking truth in love, not compromising one's deepest values (for them the friendship is built on sand). But, Lincoln understodd and practiced mercy as a way to turn enemies into friends. 

He did it on the personal level. He did it at the political level. He was going to do it at a national level. But assasination took him away from us before he would have launched into what would have been an even greater victory than preserving the Union. He would have led us into a "healing of the Union." 

Of course, this is exactly what Christ has done. Mercy has triumped over strict justice. Mercy turned the enemies of God into friends and children. Mercy did this through self-sacrifice and truth telling. 

Those who lead in the name of Jesus are still called to follow the way of Jesus. Lincoln encourages us to believe this is possible at the highest levels.

What do you think?
And more importantly - where do you need to lead with mercy and not strict justice?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership  ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org