We eventually learn that there isn’t much hope for us without forgiveness. Without forgiveness, we are bound to our failures, trapped in our guilt, and locked-up in isolation, with nothing to hold onto but our anger. That’s why, I think, the now-aging rock and roll singer Don Henley said that, even though his song, “The Heart of the Matter,” took him only four minutes to sing, it took him 42 years to write.” What he learned from the loves and losses of those years is that the heart of the matter is forgiveness.

Forgiveness isn’t easy and isn’t simple. When we forgive those who hurt us, we give up our quest for revenge. We surrender our right to get even. We try to see them as human beings again, maybe not as people we will ever be able to trust but as people nonetheless: people with their own disappointments and dreams. We wish them well and even hope and pray for their healing and happiness.

Forgiveness might not mean getting back together. It might not mean reconciliation, because that depends on the other person as much as it does on us. Forgiveness doesn’t disregard justice, either; it means that justice is tempered with mercy and that hot anger is cooled-down by compassion.

Novelist Wally Lamb ends his book I Know this Much is True with these lines: “I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark wood of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness, that mongrels make good dogs, that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.”