Are you a Mercy or Ruler Gift?

When I recorded the original teaching on the redemptive gift of Mercy, my illustration was a female, charismatic worshipper.  A male, businessman with the gift of Mercy would be hard put to recognize himself in that teaching.  Furthermore, a well-trained female businesswoman with the gift of Mercy might miss it too.

I have found a number of Mercy gift people in the marketplace who think they are Ruler gift, when they are not.  Here are three tools for determining which gift is the core design, and which is a set of learned skills.

1)   Look for the motive

The Prophet, Ruler and Mercy each make a fairly good administrator.  They can each solve problems on a day-to-day basis and build systems that will facilitate future expansion.  And if you had three managers, each with one of those gifts, looking at a given problem, it is entirely possible that they would come to exactly the same conclusion of how to fix it.

The difference lies in the logic trail and the reasoning.  The Prophet would decide to do it this way because it is simply right!  The Ruler would do it the same way because it would work.  And the Mercy would make the same decision because it would keep people safe.

Both the immature Prophet and Ruler are known for creating a workplace where ideology and functionality comes before the needs of the people.  While the Mercy manager knows that he or she needs to adhere to company values and enhance profitability, the default reasoning for most Mercy gifts is to find a solution for the problem that will be a win/win for all of the players.  Often Mercy gifts will struggle with finalizing the obvious decision if they know someone will be negatively impacted by it.  They will avoid the actual implementation of a hard decision as long as they can, to the detriment of the organization. 

So if you wonder if you are Ruler or Mercy, look at the inner reasoning behind the management decisions you make and see if there is a clue there.

2.  Look at savoring

The Ruler gift gets closure in a fairly solid way.  A project was studied for months, discussed for weeks, argued over for hours and then a decision was made.  The Ruler is excited about getting it done and will usually shift his focus fairly quickly to the next thing on his To Do list.

By contrast, the Mercy gift craves a season of savoring, of talking through the process, after something that big was “finalized.”  There is often not room for such savoring in the frantic environment of the marketplace , so the Mercy gift will go home and do the blow-by-blow of the day with his or her spouse, as a form of reliving and savoring the most salient points of the process.

3.  Look at your early childhood

If you are a Mercy in the marketplace, you have had to learn a huge number of business skills which were not evident in childhood.  Think of the large group activities you were a part of in childhood.  Were you part of the 4th grade play on Parent Teacher night?  Did you help at your best friend’s birthday party?

If so, what were the dynamics?  Were you naturally sought out as the key player in that group project?  That might suggest Ruler giftings which were flowing before you learned management theory.  On the other hand, if you as a child defaulted to individual relationships, not group problem solving, that would suggest Mercy gift.  Did you and your best friend seize a small task in the birthday preparation and enjoy your microcosm while leaving others to see the big picture?  That sounds like a Mercy child in action before the MBA imposed a set of learned skills.

It is important to know which are our learned skills and which are the actions flowing from core design. 

Copyright November 2010 by Arthur Burk

From the Quarterdeck in Anaheim

This entry was posted in The Redemptive Gifts of Individuals. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Are you a Mercy or Ruler Gift?

  1. D warren says:

    According to the inventory, I am highest in mercy , but only one point less in ruler… Any insight into how that works? I am an administrator in a public child welfare agency…

    • SLG says:

      Umm . . . what inventory?

      • D warren says:

        The redemptive gifts test… Sorry to have called it inventory. I have taken several times, and end up with mercy on top followed within a point or two by ruler… Just curious about how that works together …

        • SLG says:

          My question D Warren is what redemptive gift test? I have not seen any that are more than 60% accurate, so I suggest you not use that as the basis for being confused.

  2. Willem Grobler says:

    I’m struggling with understanding my RG and was hoping to find insight into the manner. From all the research I have done I am fairly certain that I am a ruler. Although I have found that I have some of the mercy characteristics, it is more likely that these characteristics are because of the manner in which I was raised. The problem I am facing is the manner in which the mercy communicates with God. I understand exactly what other mercies mean when they know or feel something that they cannot explain. In my own life, especially in ministry work, I often have trouble hearing God, but I still know and feel things that I cannot explain.

    Where can I find more information regarding the differences between the two gifts? And is it possible that I can have the basic characteristic that separate the mercy from the other gifts and still be a ruler as my basic RG?

    Because of the difference in the manner by which these two gifts communicate with God, some assistance in the manner will be much appreciated in order to understand how to improve myself in ministry work.

    • ruthiespage says:

      I’m replying to your comment because I might understand your dilemma. I am a mercy RG. knew that I was when I first heard Bill Gothard teach on the motivational gifts back in the ’70’s. Guess that dates me. Learning about, teaching and mapping cities according to this model is my passion. On the other hand, I am married to a ruler, and have learned much about rulers in my 42 years of living with him. I was so thankful for Arthur’s insight concerning mercy & ruler RG. Helped bring peace to our relationship! Your question intrigued me.
      In the market place I have been Director of Nursing, so I do have managerial experience and Arthur’s assessment of manager skills is right on target.
      In your comment you referred quite a bit to feeling and knowing things-very Mercy RG.
      In living with my ruler husband and looking at this issue there are a few qualities that standout to me and are sort of a ‘rule of thumb’ to go by.
      His motto is ‘get ‘er done!’ The focus on the finish line. And when it’s done, it’s done and on to the next thing.
      He always has a plan. If he is going to the post office, he has a plan. if he is going on a long trip, he has a plan, a to do list. an agenda. ALWAYS. He might not communicate that to me, but it is there. For instance, we were on our way home from vacation (still had 180 miles to go). In the parking lot of the hotel he began to explain that when we reached home we needed to go to the PO, then Walmart prior to going to the house. As ALWAYS, a plan. As a Mercy, I needed to savor the beach time, the fun, the vacation. He shifted and put his plan into effect as soon as the last suitcase was in the car! major difference in us. So we compromise. I hear the plan, then he listens while I ‘debrief’ and has even learned to comment occasionally.
      Another ear mark is NO blame. As a Mercy, RG I default to guilt over any situation, regardless if I’m at fault. I can easily be manipulated by guilt. As a ruler, he doesn’t get that! His take is to “don’t cry over the spilled milk, just mop it up and move on!’ Just get it done and move with the agenda. This was an issue for us, but now he tries to help me see that it is not always my fault. And I’ve tried to help him learn to nurture more and push the agenda less.
      This does not mean he is not flexible, He has learned to be. He does ‘feel’ in his spirit, and can’t always tell me why, but most of the time, he just moves on anyway. He hears the Lord in a different way. He is a visionary and is always wanting to move forward. the verse where Paul says, “I push on toward the High Calling’ really fits him. Seems to see the finished vision and instinctively knows how to get there. His communications seem more concrete to me.
      I, on the other hand, need quiet, need to ‘feel’ His presence, am looking for the ‘one thing’ that catches my heart, and want to stay at that place to mediate. It is there that I find more revelation, see more than I can articulate.
      One other difference is how we listen to teaching. The first time I heard Arthur speak, after about ten minutes, I was on overload, and was ready to go home. I spoke to Arthur about it at break. He told me to stop taking notes (was very frustrated) and to just listen. The Lord would drop one thing in my spirit, and that was all that I needed to hear. The rest would come as I needed it. Wow! what freedom! He explained that I heard with my heart, not with my head. The Father created me this way, and when I listened with my heart, I owned it! That set me free to be me! On the other hand, my husband takes notes, does well with them, and goes back and actually reads them. Big difference. He hears with his head, I hear with my heart.
      You, Willem, sound more like a mercy RG to me. Of course, only you know your heart. I guess Bill Gothard did ask the right question: How are you motivated, what does your heart tell you? to identify and help the wounded, or to get the job done. Mercy RG will stop everything to help the wounded. The Ruler RG will help the wounded to get the job done. I hope this has helped.
      By the way, I recommend Megan’s DVD on Mercy Gift. Excellent tool and helped me better understand myself.

  3. Annie says:

    Gosh, what a journey to figure out your RG. I have listened to ‘The Gifts and the King’, ‘RG and South Africa’ and read ‘Alive with Purpose and Passion’ and I find myself somewhat confused. I resonated with William Wilberforce’s passion and relentless work to right a social wrong, but I am not a large group, extrovert….so I don’t think I am an exhorter. For a while I have thought that I am a prophet for the fact that I am moved towards brokenness, I am a fixer and injustice moves me enormously.
    But lately I have changed my mind. I wonder if I am not a mercy, because human relationships are VERY important to me, I will delay making a decision if it will hurt someone and I always concerned with working towards peace between people. My colleagues get annoyed with me because I am so trusting. I implicitly trust people and see the good and potential in them and therefore I am energized to facilitate them to change and I also defend their weaknesses. I am however not blind to their imperfections, but rather moved to understand it and heal it.

    What throws me about the mercy RG is the following:
    – The mercy is a master in creating ecosystems. I restore and maintain human relationships and peace, but with regards to environmental aesthetics I am very poor. My living spaces are functional, not pretty. I appreciate it if others make it pretty, but I am not skilled or bothered to do it myself.
    – When the mercy move they have a hard time adapting, because the complete ecosystem they have created is disturbed. Well, I have moved 18 times in my 29 years and I am not phased by moving. I am in fact exited about it and adapt extremely well in new environments. I must say that I am very sentimental and would revisit the memories of the old place and its people often just before and after the move until it fades away after a time.
    – The mercy know things intuitively and words catch up only later. I am good with putting things in words. I am very sensitive though to subtle nuances in human behavior, but I am very slow for instance to catch up with someone manipulating or lying to me. I am pretty gullible. (Shouldn’t a mercy’s intuition/ discernment be faster to catch something like this?) I am sort of slow in catching up with and putting words to my emotions when I am going through a tough time emotionally or had to make a very emotional decision – I can feel something has upset me but I can only put words to the what and why much later – but I wonder if this has anything to do with the mercy gift. I am pretty analytical and I find that my intuition if often more fear based than accurate.

    Can you maybe shed some light on this?

  4. Lee-Ann Raaff says:

    My Manager is part a ruler, I am her assistant manager/mercy. We run numerous research projects during the year n=20-300 people at a time. We have moments where we thing so alike when working from a protocol or sop to administrate a project. Then there are times when we don’t. My manager crosses the t’s and puts a dot on the i, corrects spelling mistakes where as I put procedures together to conduct the study with the least pain, without jeopardizing the validity of the study. My manager collects all the birds with the broken wings to assist us, loves facilitating/teaching students. On the other hand I find myself irritated with the birds with broken wings. Especially when my goal is to start and finish a project with lots of intense admin during and after completion. I find solutions which might/might not always be a win/win solution, but my project runs smoothly, and data collected is correct. I am not always a good delegator of work as my boss would say. Closure and savouring depends on the project and time!! I do get challenged with conflict often in and out of the team. In the past I would have shyd away from it, but am having to face the conflict (and believe you me it’s painful), walk through it and sort it out (with or without trembling/shaking in my voice from being upset). I find that I am sometimes not understood and am misinterpreted, as being hard and having no grace on people. I am sought out often in groups. As a child I was a loner, started working as a waitress @ the age of 14. I have learned that I am shaped by having conflict in my life.

    I am starting to unpack myself! I am wondering/pondering about my managers redemptive gifts.

    Arthur thank you for the post above!!

  5. Chris says:


    Thank you! This presentation of the gifts helped me, after 2 – 3 years of studying, to determine my design. I am so excited and rejoicing in God. Now the work begins of unpacking the gift. Any suggestions of reading/materials to help unpack the ruler gift?

    Thanks for all you do. Plumbline has blessed my life so incredibly much.

    • Absolutely. Read Ralph Moody’s books. He was a Ruler and he captured the mindset of all of the gifts better than anyone else I know. His book “Man of the Family” is my textbook when I want to coach someone on how to recognize the gifts. His finest hour as a Ruler was in “Dry Divide.” And his most stupid moment as a Ruler was at the end of “Horse of a Different Color.” It is quite an education to read his whole story. “Little Britches” is the first in the series.

      You could also read our book “Alive With Passion and Purpose.” It covers the redemptive gifts of individuals.

      Another excellent book for Rulers would be Lou Gestner’s book, “Who Says Elephant’s Can’t Dance?” He is a Ruler’s Ruler and was brought in to salvage IBM from bankruptcy. IBM was violating every imaginable principle relative to the Ruler and Gerstner turned the company around by bringing the principles into right alignment. You could learn a massive amount by studying that book. It is written from a secular point of view, but is a powerful example of what went wrong, and what it took to make it right again.

  6. Kate says:

    Wow! Nice article. I like it. 😉

  7. Susanne says:

    To read all this revives my spirit,

    I would love to interprete this into german, I´m the only german I know who is blessed to be informed about this and do grow in everything….

    Bless you all


  8. Sue H. says:

    I’m still in the contemplating stage of how the Redemptive Gifts of our human spirit, gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 12 and the 5-fold office gifts all work together. It makes sense that the varieties and manifestations of all those elements in a person’s life can help to “muddle” who we think we are as to the RGs. Those dynamics and our wounding help to complicate a definition of ourselves.

    I had an interesting and exciting thing happen to me recently. I had presumed that I was RG of Servant and often spoke to the Servant, encouraging and complimenting it. While having a prayer minister work with the parts of my spirit, we were focused on Mercy. I clearly heard, “Servant has gotten credit for everything I have done.” Wow! I now have no doubt what dominate gift I am! This is such an interesting journey. I am so grateful for Arthur’s teaching on our human spirits.

  9. Mimi T says:

    How would you characterize the difference between the Mercy’s need to keep people safe, and the Teacher’s desire to be a safe person to those around them? I understand that motivation is the key factor in determining what your gift is; being safe to the students and others I am around is very important to me. As I compare Megan’s comment about wanting the relationships around her to be intact and protected to my concern to establish trust so people will feel comfortable coming to me when they want advice or just someone to listen to them, it seems that motivation for a Teacher is rooted in being available when someone has a problem or need that they want some counsel for. It seems the danger in this is not so much a struggle between a relationship with people or God, but in being sure God gets all the glory and credit for any benefit from the counsel rather than drawing attention to themselves.

    However, I could be totally off ~ I am definitely one of those Teachers who is not even sure that is what I am or want to be!

    Thank you for your insight!

    • Instead of contrasting the Mercy and the Teacher, let me try it from the perspectives of the prophet and priest to see if it lands well. The Teacher was the priestly tribe in Israel. Their calling was to bring about reconciliation between God and man, but central to their cultural and calling was being passive. They waited by the altar for the repentant sinner to come and ask for coaching on how to reconcile after some particular sin. Since the sinner was already repentant and seeking, there was no need for any word of rebuke by the priest. He was the consummate safe person in the face of any sin whatsoever.

      By contrast, the Hebrew prophets had a license to hunt. They could go after the unrepentant sinner anywhere they found him and try to bring him under conviction against his will, but any sort of verbal violence. So when you saw the prophet strolling down the street in your neighborhood, it was really bad news. Someone was about to get busted, big time.

      It sounds to me as though you are in a neutral place and people come to you seeking a broad range of wisdom and insight (not necessarily limited to the area of reconciliation). So whether or not you are a redemptive gift of Teacher, you seem to be in that place in life where you are to be a safe person whom others can approach for wisdom.

      That is a slightly different context than some of the Mercy diaologs we have had. In each of those, we see a proactive person who, willingly or unwillingly, is in a project or group setting and is charged with making decisions that will impact others. From what you wrote, I think you are only giving information to someone else who then has to make some sort of informed decision.

      So it might be more of a question of role in life at the moment, than actually a quesiton of redemptive gifts.

  10. Sonja B. says:

    Another way of loving God first and foremost is to trust that He can protect those who truly need protecting after the fact. So, I also resigned as savior today.

  11. Another facet of the motive for decisions that I run into constantly is how it will affect the condition of the relationship. Not only do I want to keep people safe, but I want the relationships to be intact when we get done. I recently had someone share with me that even in working on a joint project, my motive for doing well is my relationship with them, not the project itself. That is often true. While I do have a desire to do a good job regardless of who is involved, I get much more joy when there is a relationship to be benefited. SO, again, it goes back to which relationship matters the most. The people around me or God?

    • At the end of the day, the second commandment is still the second commandment, and the first is still paramount.

      • ruthiespage says:

        As a mercy RG I deal with that too, Megan. Thank you Arthur, for your prophet comment. Once again the relationship with prophet helps keep the mercy focused! most of my closest friends are prophet, and over the years I’ve learned to appreciate their directness, and see how this helps me. One the other hand, hopefully they’ve learned a little restraint and gentleness in their rebuke!!

  12. Sonja B. says:

    Wow! Ouch! Thanks for the much needed “spanking”! Repenting now…..

  13. Sonja B. says:

    Thank you for this article, Arthur. Amazingly, I found myself prolonging the “right decision” today because I couldn’t protect all innocent parties involved from a negative backlash. I tried so hard to find a “win/win” for all involved, but I just couldn’t. So, even though I eventually did the right thing, I have been beating myself up all day for being slow to respond, AND for not finding the “win/win.” After reading your article Arthur, I have a greater understanding of what was going on for me as a Mercy to be put in that type of situation. Now the million dollar question…Is it wrong to react that way, (trying to protect) and if so, how do I stop? Sometimes I really envy you Prophets!

    • Study the dynamics of John the Mercy in the book of Revelation. It is fascinating to me that God selected the uber Mercy to deliver the most utterly savage, relentlessly destructive prophecy in all of human history. To me, the secret of the successful Mercy life is to focus on what would offend or please God. When a Mercy is primarily focused on the pleasure points of the human culture around them, they can be yanked every which way with win/lose decisions which leave the Mercy traumatized by making the decision and the community traumatized when the Mercy goes into paralysis mode and fails to make a needed decision.

      The only safe place for the Mercy gift is to be completely absorbed in the emotional response of the King. When it is impossible for you to disappoint your King, your Bridegroom, your Best Friend, in even the smallest point, then making decisions here on earth that will offend mere humans becomes a very different proposition.

      When the Mercy is exquisitely aware of the emotions of those around them, they are in deep trouble. When the Mercy can feel the pleasure and sorrow of their King over the choices on the table, then life is much more doable.

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