When I have to do difficult things or make difficult decisions there is a lot of sucking it up, a lot of biting the lower lip, and usually a few tears. As I've wandered through my emotions and my ultimate decisions of late, I noted something fundamental about myself and my personal motivations.
I don't respond to obligation positively. Tell me I have to do something and I will resent you and the obligation.
This axiom was humorously (mmm, maybe only to me) made apparent in my life in the ninth grade when I refused to read Of Mice and Men for literature class. Meanwhile, I ate F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories for breakfast and wondered why Camus' The Plague had to have so many darn rats. Somehow I managed to pass without ever reading Steinbeck outside of that cement block room.
On the other hand, free me from the obligation, tell me its okay not to want to do something, give me permission to despise the very task of even thinking about it and things change. I will want to do that very thing, as a challenge for myself, as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Today, I might actually consider reading Of Mice and Men. You know, after I read all of Salinger's books and collections a few more times and I have a chance to plow through some Dostoevsky. (Yeesh. Dostoevsky.)
All this to say, obligation is the opposite of desire. Tada! Amazing revelatory statement of the year! Impressive, eh? Maybe not. So, don't worry. There's more.
I cannot be merciful or gracious out of obligation. Mercy is an act beyond the façade of my hands and face. It flows out of the heart and can only be shown when truly present. I have to be truly free from obligation to be truly merciful.