If we understand Jesus' command to "be merciful" rather than to "be perfect," we must find some way to regularly practice and participate in the mutual exchange of mercy, which is already at work regardless of our efforts. In contemplative prayer we recognize our need of mercy and stand under the gracious flow of God's forgiveness and compassion. As we move into the world, we find ways of extending that mercy to ourselves and others in practical ways.
Buddhists have a beautiful meditation to grow and nurture loving kindness,
maitri. The quality is already within you, but if you don't choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving.
Begin by finding the place of loving kindness inside your heart (Christians might call this the indwelling Spirit).
Drawing upon this source of love, bring to mind someone you deeply care about, and send loving kindness toward them.
Now direct this love toward a casual friend or colleague, someone just beyond your inner circle.
Continue drawing from your inner source of loving kindness and let it flow toward someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, a stranger.
Remember someone who has hurt you or someone you struggle to like. Bless them. Send them your love.
Gather all these people and yourself into the stream of love and hold them here for a few moments.
Finally, let the flow of loving kindness widen to encompass all beings in the universe.
This practice can help you know--in your mind, heart, and body--that love is not determined by the worthiness of the object. Love is determined by the giver of the love. You are simply a conduit for the inflow and outflow of love.