“God’s forgiveness is felt strongly within us as long as we forgive others. And this isn’t easy because grudges make a nest in our heart and there is always that bitterness.”

– Pope Francis

I love to cook. I hate doing dishes. And I hate nothing more than doing dishes when I wasn’t the one cooking in the first place. My wife and I have made meager strides in getting the children to be more involved in the process. We have succeeded, more or less, in getting them to bring their dish from the table to the sink. Depending on the child, there are greater chances of the dish being rinsed and actually being placed in the dishwasher. However, pots, pans, cutting boards? Forget about it! During one particularly busy week on the domestic front, I pleaded with my older two children to help with the dishes as I ran out the door to an evening meeting. “I’ll come down and do it soon,” yelled one from her bat cave. “Yeah, what she said,” came non-committedly from the other one. I had zero faith my request would be heeded, and my prophecy proved true as I returned home late that night to find the pots right where I had left them.

The daughters received a long lecture the next morning that included how hard their parents work and my concerns for them ever becoming productive citizens. The next week, there was another evening out. Beginning with breakfast one morning, I reviewed the plan for dinner – what I would make and how they needed to clean up. I reminded them again before they got out of the car at school. I implored them to do their homework as soon as they got home so they would have no excuse to avoid the dishes later that evening. Before I left the house, I began one last reminder before one of my daughters stopped me. “Dad. Geez. We get it. It’s like we’ve already failed again, and we haven’t even eaten yet. When is the punishment over?”

As I got into my car, I was initially annoyed with my daughter’s dramatic response. Punishment? I merely called them out on not doing what they said they would do. That is hardly punishment. As I reflected more, I couldn’t help but remember countless times where I’ve heard a leader lament about someone on their staff or team who made a mistake once or twice and who seemed to be consciously or unconsciously forever sentenced to an invisible prison of doubt and disappointment. In those instances, it seemed the leader was simply waiting for them to confirm their next crime before they even committed it. As an outside observer, this always seems unfair, but I know I am guilty of it more times than I’d like to admit.

Whether in life or leadership, what is the permanence of my punishments when others fall short? Do I forgive but never let someone forget? Do my “reminders” rob them of their ability to ever really redeem themselves in my eyes? How does my sense of justice reflect that of the Lord’s?

When I came home that evening, the kitchen was spotless, but my conscience wasn’t. I decided I didn’t want the dishes done out of fear, but rather love and mutual respect, and that would require some elbow grease from all of us. As we continue in this Easter Season, let’s choose to free people from the life sentences we may have given them for something in the past, so that together we can experience the Father’s freedom in our future.

by Daniel Cellucci

April 15, 2024

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