Easter resurrects the sense of forgiveness.
Still, it can be a pretty stiff test of character to not only ask for forgiveness, but also to forgive. There's some suffering, some challenge, in both. At times, it can seem an impossible task.
Theologians, of course, point to Jesus, the crucified savior, as the ultimate role model. He not only forgave the sins of his followers, but, in agony, also asked his father to forgive those who sent him to the cross.
Often, when faced with real or imagined slights or misdeeds, the first reaction is retaliation - "an eye for an eye." Even if vengeance is not carried out overtly, there is, for many, at the very least a fantasy about requital.
On the other hand, forgiveness requires us to plumb the depths of our souls to recognize that it possesses a propensity to heal human nature and nurture.
I found this out one Easter Sunday, when an act of forgiveness prevented the family dinner from turning into a free-for-all.
With 16 of us sitting around the table, my aunt suddenly, and with a hard edge, started taking my pop to task. He was the quintessential patriarchal father who changed tires instead of diapers, who kept his emotions in check, and who believed mothers should be in the home taking care of the kids. My aunt was in the vanguard of late-'60s liberated women and believed she could do a job just as well as a man. She was working her way up in management at the RCA Corp., but she thought she wasn't rising fast enough given her considerable skills and intelligence. And she was smart, once the second-ranked women's chess player in the United States.
Sitting next to my father when she started, I thought, "Uh-oh, this is not going to be good." But he listened patiently without interrupting my aunt's rant - wonderfully resistant.
Finally, he said simply: "You deserve better. I hope you get what you earn."
It was an apocalyptic moment. My aunt's jaw dropped to her ankles, and she said to Pop: "I'm sorry for taking my frustration out on you. Forgive me." My father did. There was such purity in the forgiving, by both my pop and my aunt. It was the fresh smell of two roses.
I learned a lesson that Easter. Instead of shouting at each other over real or imagined slights, Pop and my aunt showed me that forgiveness can be an awakening, a ripening of virtue if you will, in which we relinquish our anger, vengeance, grudges, and bruised egos to understand ourselves and others better. Without it, there is only silence for the heart to mourn.
Oh, and my aunt went on to a long, productive, and successful career as a senior marketing analyst at RCA.