The title for this post is one of the more memorable lines from “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.
Stevenson, a lawyer who defends those on death row or sentenced to life in prison, people who are broken. He notes that he often had conversations with clients who were struggling and despairing over their situations and the things they had done, or were done to them. These clients would question the value of their lives, and he would remind them that they were more than the worst thing they had ever done.
If you tell a lie, that does not mean you are just a liar. If you take something that is not yours, that does not mean you are just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you are not just a killer.
Understanding this is helpful not just for those who may be questioning the value of their lives, it is also helpful for all of us. We have all judged someone as a result of something that person has done, but we should not define someone just based on that act.
Stevenson notes that we are all broken in one way or another, and understanding our brokenness creates not only a need and desire for mercy, but also a corresponding need to show mercy.
The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving; it’s when mercy is least expected that it is most potent.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. As some data-based evidence of how good this book is, there are 1,500 reviews of it on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.9 stars. What is truly remarkable however, is that there are zero 1 or 2 star ratings. I have never seen a book, or any product on Amazon, that has that large a number of reviews with no 1-star ratings, let alone no 2-star ratings. Usually someone will find something to complain about, but not with this book.
If you would like to get a little preview of what the book is about, here is a Facebook Live interview that Cory Booker (my favorite politician) had last week with Bryan Stevenson about Just Mercy.