The Red Couch: Just Mercy discussion



To learn more about Just Mercy, please read the introductory post. Don’t forget to peruse The Nightstand, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic.


Hi. My name is Cara …and I judge people.

I take the gavel into my own hands, and I decide to play the Great Judge.

I judge the homeless man who shouts at his reflection in the window, the one who paces back and forth after our Sunday night dinner. I judge the workers clad in orange jumpsuits, the ones who dig ditches on the side of my busy four-lane highway. I judge the woman who sits outside the post office with her four children in tow, cardboard signs propped on every lap, five sets of eyes that plead at me for mercy.

And I think: I take my medicine. Well, thank God my sin isn’t as bad as theirs. At least I’d have the decency to keep my kids in school.

I judge, I judge and I judge again, feeling justified in my judgment of others.

But when the ugliness of my own heart astounds me, my own lack of mercy begs me get down on hands and knees, and plead heavenward for more, for some, for any.

So tell me, am I the only one?

Am I the only one who forgets to show mercy to the least of these, to those who need it the most?

In Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, we are reminded that each of us is worth more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. We are not defined by outward actions and appearances, nor do we gain greater worth and value by having received the right to a “good education,” or the good fortune to grow up in a nurturing family environment. But you and me and every other being on this planet, are defined solely by our status as humans.

Our stamp of humanity – granted us by a God who is a most wholly, holy Love – gives us our worth. And this worth is only made complete by the need we have within our shared brokenness. “We have all hurt someone and have been hurt,” Stevenson writes. “We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.” For there exists not a scale to our sin or to our brokenness, but the general condition of brokenness makes us stand on equal ground.

It is a brokenness we share when the poor are denied the right to an attorney who will truly fight tooth and nails for them, who will seek to free the unjustly accused from the grips of death row.

It is a brokenness we share when we refuse to enter into conversations about race, ignoring our country’s past and current legacy of racial inequality.

It is a brokenness we share with the mentally ill, and it is a brokenness we share with abused and neglected children who are unfairly tried in the adult justice system.

It is a brokenness we share when we continue to believe that the answer lies not in reform and rehabilitation, but purely in incarceration.

It is a brokenness we share when we don’t believe any of the above to be our problem.

And it is a brokenness that cannot be ignored any longer.

Too easily, writes Stevenson, “…we condemn people and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger and distance to shape the most vulnerable among us.” We forget that we belong, one to the other, you to me to him to her, and back and forth again. And we neglect to remember that when we victimize and allow our fellow human beings to be mistreated, we condemn ourselves in the process.

If you’re anything like me, this book has boggled my mind. It’s made me not only confront my own ugliness when I judge other people unfairly, but it’s made me recognize and realize the profound power of justice and mercy that can exist in our world. It’s helped me to remember that we’re all in need of grace – of heaping measures of unmerited grace, as Stevenson sagely suggests.

So friends, might we fight for grace and mercy.

Might we be the ones who fight for change, bringing justice to those who need it most, erasing our yesterdays and rewriting our tomorrows.

Questions to consider:

  • Let’s get real with one another: when have you unfairly judged another person? Have you ever felt justified in your judgment of others?
  • When, in the book or in real life, did you witness extreme mercy or justice toward another person?
  • How did Stevenson’s theme of brokenness affect you?
  • What is the pulse toward incarceration in your county, your state or your country?
  • Has your view toward the prison population changed since reading this book or participating in the Red Couch discussions? How has it changed?
  • When it comes to the criminal justice system, what change do you want to see? What change do you want to be?
  • What else from the book stood out to you?



Our May book is The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian McLaren. Come back Wednesday, May 6 for the introduction to the book. The discussion post will be Wednesday, May 27. We’ll also be announcing our Third Quarter book selections on Wednesday May 20. For ongoing discussion each month, join The Red Couch Facebook group.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. Her first book, The Color of Life: A White Woman’s Journey of Legacy, Love and Racial Justice releases with Zondervan in January 2019. She loves a mean bowl of chips and guac, long walks outside, and makes it her goal to dance in the living room every night.
Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith

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  1. Sandy Hay says:

    Even though I know this book is non-fiction, I had trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that is isn’t fiction. I have only been to a prison once and I’ll never forget the sound of those doors closing. I’ll never forget that my friend will never get out of prison. i’ll never forget the harm he caused to his family. This was far from death row; it’s in NJ not Alabama. I had to remind myself that we are all broken. “There is a strength, a power even in understanding broken, because embracing our broken creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy.” “The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving….it has the power to break the cycle…it has the power to heal.”

    • says:

      Sandy, I appreciate the picture you’ve painted for us. While I’ve never actually been inside a prison, I can imagine the haunting sound of slamming doors …and how that could change a person. Let’s seek justice and mercy together.

  2. Lindsey Smallwood says:

    This: Our stamp of humanity – granted us by a God who is a most wholly, holy Love – gives us our worth. And this worth is only made complete by the need we have within our shared brokenness. “We have all hurt someone and have been hurt,” Stevenson writes. “We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.” For there exists not a scale to our sin or to our brokenness, but the general condition of brokenness makes us stand on equal ground.

    I know you (and Bryan) wrote it and don’t need me to quote it to you but seriously – yes and amen. We all share it. ALL.

    • says:

      Yes. Yes, yes, yes. We all share it. ALL (and now I quote you and add an Amen onto it!)

  3. Wow. Just wow. Beautiful, Cara.

  4. I just started Just Mercy and am already overwhelmed with stories of injustice. I totally judge others based on appearance or one word or an opinion. It’s so easy to categorize others and gloss over their nuances and stories. (Reminds me of Disunity in Christ….) And yet, when we take that small moment to hear another’s story, to see beyond circumstance or what we believe to be true, it’s so hard to judge. I need to remember to stop and listen. To ask questions and to hear stories. (I was about to type before judging, but really I just need to stop judging….) Thank you for these wrap-up thoughts. What a vulnerable essay – I appreciate you bringing up these feelings.

    • says:

      Annie, yes, yes, yes to much of what you said. It is SO easy to judge others – and even if it’s a more superficial judgment, I was appalled to see how bigger judgments led to complete injustice. It’s funny also that Disunity in Christ, as you mentioned, and Just Mercy are the two books I’ve read this year with Red Couch. Might there be a theme? Hmmm…. Otherwise, thanks for your encouragement with the vulnerability. 🙂

    • While I was reading Just Mercy, the themes of Disunity in Christ came to my mind, too!

  5. fiona lynne says:

    A friend bought this book for me for my birthday. I still have to start it (I really don’t get how young mamas find time to read) but this makes me even more enthusiastic to begin. x

    • says:

      Oh Fiona, it is SUCH a great book (obviously). As per finding the time to read, Audible, man. Audible. Good luck. 🙂


  1. […] Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption– Bryan Stevenson (April 2015 Red Couch selection: introduction and discussion) […]

  2. […] (and one I’m trying to get every human I come in book-contact with to read).  You can read more of my thoughts here, but otherwise, run, run, run to the library or to Amazon or to your local bookstore and pick it […]

  3. […] Click here to read the rest of the post, which is a discussion at She Loves Magazine on what may be the best and most important book I’ve read this year, Just Mercy.  In light of all that’s happened this week in Baltimore – and beyond – I find talking about issues of race and social activism incredibly relevant.   […]

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