Author Anne Lamott: ‘Mercy is our only hope’

Write on paper as much as you can,” and I had as savage an attack just about as I did with the Caitlyn Jenner thing. To have a merciful heart means your heart has been softened by the meat tenderizer of grace so that even if somebody is wrong or has wronged you, you feel mercifully toward them. It’s like cocaine or an espresso. Lamott simply realized when she heard the word “mercy,” it had the power to change her day. It shakes you up a little bit. It’s the miracle that we’re forgiven, the miracle that we forgive even the most impossible people, including relatives, the miracle that we have found mercy in our hearts for people who have hurt our children. You’re transparent about your politics and your disapproval of the current administration. You write in the book about a particular tweet you posted that your son had urged you to apologize for. “It’s the way to peace, the way to feeling safe and connected. That intention changes things, but so does hearing the word “merciful.” It just changes things. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. While cleaning out a drawer, I found a note scribbled on a napkin. If you want to have loving feelings, you have to do loving things, period. Writing=paper & INK
— ANNE LAMOTT (@ANNELAMOTT) March 18, 2017

You mentioned being plugged into the internet. And then, she said, she “accidentally” found herself writing a book about it — “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy,” published this week by Riverhead Books. For those of us who are, say, troubled by Trump, because it’s a very dark, scary time for those of us who are passionate about care for the elderly and the poor and the disabled and the environment, this book brings so much light in terms of reminding us most miracles, I would say, really begin with people listening to each other instead of judgment and arms crossed. To be a writer–napkin notes, meaningless to anyone else. Sometimes I’ll get into it with my family or with something more local, and it’s really a hit. It’s grace as that unmerited, beautiful energy of assistance and second winds and buoyancy and fresh air and help to our feet. It’s all the things we long for.”
Lamott talked to RNS about her new book and how to offer mercy in the middle of the Twitter fight and in a politically divided country. It just keeps hurting you and keeping you clenched and defensive. I think probably synonyms are compassion and lovingkindness in the Buddhist tradition and forgiveness almost. Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote a beautiful book called “Strangers in Their Own Land,” and it’s about all these years she spent recently with the Tea Party movement in the bayou in Louisiana, just getting to know people and really just getting to listen, eating with them and going to church with them and going to work with them and staying home with them. You don’t have to break some sort of mercy code, or you don’t have to break some sort of “how to live morally” code, you have to take merciful actions. Anger is very mood-altering, and self-righteousness is very mood-altering, and I can say that absolutely from my own experience. I’ve always said in probably every book I’ve written, you take the action and then the insight follows. How do you define mercy? You get that they have suffered. I also don’t go places where I know the person’s theology or political positions are going to drive me crazy. That’s how I define grace, and mercy seems more like the action of that. I love to block people who are rude and awful, and I’m sure Jesus would be blocking everybody like crazy too if he was around. This other thing leads to communion and community and a softening of these scared hearts. What do you think is the role of mercy at a time when our country is so divided politically? You get it. Writing rule #1: carry a pen at all times, NOT yr cell phone. I started foisting it on everyone after the election. There’s an acronym in the recovery movement of WAIT: “Why Am I Talking?” What if we stopped talking? What if our goal was a merciful heart? You get what an effort it is for them just to get through the day. So mercy is all of those things. This was during the height of the U.S. And so what I said without thinking was, “Carry a pen. When I grew up, there was only paper and pencils and typewriters. To me, it’s sort of like grace in action. (It’s) the tenderheartedness of my relationship with God, the extreme forgiveness of God and, of course, the wonderfully low standards of God so that even someone like me is completely adored and welcomed in the great shalom of God wanting us. I got clean and sober 30 years ago, and one of the first things I heard was, “If you’ve got a problem, go look in the mirror.” First of all, I’m probably the only aspect of the problem I can change, and it’s almost certainly a spiritual solution, and it probably has all or something to do with the problem. (RNS) Best-selling Christian author and patron saint of writers everywhere Anne Lamott didn’t set out to write a book about mercy. So how can we better extend mercy to each other on social media? It’s like, “Whoa, that didn’t come up today yet because I’ve been plugged in to the TV and internet.”

I try to make the case that anything but mercy and forgiveness just hurts you. I made a mistake, but the savagery of the response – if you read the Twitter responses to my thing, it’s crazy. I just think mercy is our only hope. I wrote this thing just spur of the moment. I don’t actually respond to Twitters I hate. I’m old. There seems to be a thirst to be made crazy. “I just felt just to point out to people how merciful they are or used to be and can be again and the beauty of living from your merciful heart instead of your ticker-tape brain — judgmental brain — is the way home,” she said. presidential campaign, amid what she called “the general toxic frenzy of modern life, especially if you’re politically active and a Sunday school teacher.”
And so she found herself thinking about mercy and reading about it and talking about it and writing about it. I have to look at why I want to feel angry, why I want to continue something that is so stupid. I’ll be 63 next month.