“The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

These few lines from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” have stuck with me in my life as a short study in forgiveness. Although benevolence has never been one of my best characteristics, I am Italian after all; I’m a good grudge carrier. I think it’s in my DNA.

From the book of Matthew comes this verse; “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”. This sentence encompasses the basic reason for forgiveness- -it is the heavenly thing to do, it is what God would do. Unfortunately, we’re only human and sometimes clemency seems impossible to give.

If you find it difficult to grant forgiveness too, perhaps we both need to attend the 38th Annual Sioux Falls Prayer Breakfast on Friday, April 18th, from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Ramkota Exhibit Hall.  You will meet two people who were, at one time, on opposite sides of the absolution fence. Eric Smallridge killed Renee Napier’s daughter, Meagan, (and Meagan’s friend Lisa),  in a drunk-driving accident and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Renee forgave Eric, lobbied to have his sentence reduced and now they travel the country together spreading a message of forgiveness and redemption. If you’re like most people, you can’t imagine being able to give that level of pardon. But perhaps hearing them speak could help us with the small stuff first.

You can purchase tickets to this Sioux Falls Good Friday inspirational tradition here.