Is there a difference between 'having mercy' and 'extending mercy?' Are there other phrases that mean similar things?
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
To "have mercy" is the plea of someone who desires mercy before it has been extended. The publican, or tax collector, who stood at a distance from the Jewish temple in Jesus' day, not so much as looking up to heaven "beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner'" (Luke 18:13 NIV). In this context, Jesus contrasted the words of a self-righteous Pharisee ("'God, I thank you that I am not like . . . this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get'") with those of the tax collector. He said, "'. . . this [tax collector] went to his house justified rather than the [Pharisee}, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (ib., v.14).
In order to receive mercy, one must humble himself, thus acknowledging tacitly there is a reason why mercy should not be extended. If the person from whom one is requesting mercy is merciful, then mercy will likely be extended. There is a pithy statement that goes: "Grace is getting what you don't deserve; mercy is not getting what you do deserve."
In confining my search for mercy strictly to the Bible, I found the following expressions. In no particular order: "show mercy," "without mercy," "receive mercy," "great mercy," "full of mercy," "rich in mercy," "had mercy," "desire mercy," "love mercy," "withhold mercy," "with mercy," "request mercy," "cry for mercy," "lift up my voice for mercy," "gets no mercy," and "beg for mercy."
When someone asks another person to "have mercy," the implication is that a punishment, though deserved, can also be withheld, if the one who can extend mercy chooses to.
I remember seeing a movie--a "western"--years ago, in which a bad guy begs the protagonist (Clint Eastwood?) for mercy. The protagonist says wryly, "How is it that those who ask for mercy never give it?"
That reminds me of the ancient story of a debtor and his creditor. The creditor to whom the debtor owed a huge sum showed him mercy and forgave the debt. What did the ecstatic man who had been shown mercy do? He turned around and withheld mercy from one of his own debtors, who owed him a piddling sum. He then had him put in debtors' prison until the last penny was repaid. Ironic, isn't it?
Both your questions may be answered with “yes”. In many cases the two phrases may be used almost interchangeably, but in some examples of having mercy one finds a sense of “possessing mercy”, that is, being possessed of a quality of mercy; and in some examples of extending mercy, the phrase “extending mercy to” occurs, which suggests actively projecting mercy to rather than acquiescently having mercy upon.
Google ngrams for having mercy,extending mercy shows that both phrases occur rather rarely, with the former usually more frequent than the latter. Google ngrams for having mercy,extending mercy,have mercy,extend mercy shows that the participial forms occur at most 1% as often as the simple form have mercy.
If you are asking about the expression, then have mercy on(upon) is the correct one, which means to show compassion or forgiveness. Extending mercy or extend mercy means to include someone within one's scope of mercy.