Who will not mercy unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?

What did Edmund Spenser mean by:

Who will not mercy unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?


This quote, “Who will not mercy unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?” is a profound statement about the reciprocal nature of kindness and compassion. It suggests that if one cannot display mercy or compassion towards others, they should not expect to receive it in return. The idea is based on the principle of reciprocity, which is prevalent in many philosophies and religions around the world, often encapsulated in the phrase “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The concept of mercy here refers to a sense of compassion, forgiveness, and understanding that one extends to others, particularly in situations where they may have committed a wrong. It’s about showing kindness and leniency, even when it might be easier or more satisfying to be harsh or punitive.

The quote implies a kind of moral or spiritual economy, where the mercy one gives is directly related to the mercy one receives. It suggests that our actions, attitudes, and behaviors towards others have a way of coming back to us, for better or worse. It’s a reminder that our actions have consequences, not just for others, but for ourselves as well.

In today’s world, this idea is highly relevant. In a society where there’s a lot of division, animosity, and conflict, this quote serves as a reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding. It encourages us to treat others with kindness, even when we disagree with them, or when they have wronged us in some way.

In terms of personal development, this quote could be seen as a call to cultivate a more compassionate and forgiving attitude. It suggests that by showing mercy to others, we not only help them, but we also help ourselves. It’s a reminder that our personal growth and well-being are tied up with how we treat others. It’s not just about being kind for the sake of others, but also for our own sake, because the mercy we show to others is the mercy we’ll receive in return.

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