This is today's 9 Chickwood Lane strip, an often charming comic about three generations of women, the youngest of whom (pictured above) is a ballerina, while the man with her is her dance partner and best friend. (If you must know, she has a boyfriend and he's gay and apparently alone, but she fantasizes about him nonetheless.)

When I read the strip this morning, I wondered: why is she giving him a forgiveness coupon, "good for one act of forgiveness," while implying that he should use it to forgive her? Wouldn't it truly be a gift to him if he could use it to gain forgiveness from her? Or is she saying that forgiving her would be good for him?

Even if she's not saying this, there is some truth to that. Refusing to forgive others for slights, insults, and even more serious harms is counterproductive to living a full and joyous life. I appreciate responsibility and accountability as much as anybody, and I'm not one to forgive lightly, especially when the other person has not shown that he or she is truly sorry. But take it from me: holding grudges, or keeping a tally of perceived transgressions, will only weigh you down over time. It may feel like forgiveness lets the other person "off the hook" too easily, but think of it as easing your burden instead—it does you no good to keep track of everything everyone else has done to you through the years.

And when it comes to close personal relationships, in which people interact with each other on a regular basis and not always in the best mood or the most considerate disposition (especially during the holidays, hint hint), forgiveness is essential. No one is perfect, and we all indavertantly step on each other's toes from time to time—and those times are definitely more frequent with lovers, friends, and family. If we don't forgive each other in those instances, the relationships will quickly erode.

It may be a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason: the easiest path to forgiveness and understanding is communication. Grudges are widely acknowledged but rarely aired, and they will only fester over time. How many of us know of an old family secret like "Aunt Gladys won't sit on the same table with Aunt Ethyl because Ethyl flirted with Gladys' sweetheart at the war bond table at the county fair in 1943." They've probably never talked about it, so it has poisoned their relationship all this time, and likely every family gathering they've "blessed" with their mutual presence.

Don't be like Ethyl and Gladys—forgive. (Now, if Ethyl had kissed him...)


I'll never forgive you if you don't follow me on Twitter and also at the Economics and Ethics blog

Be sure to read the following responses to this post by our bloggers:

Charles Griswold on Forgiveness is a reply by Mark D. White Ph.D.

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