From time to time, we evaluate our relationships with other people. But our reflection can lead to discouragement. We somehow want our friendships to be totally loving and supportive, our family relationships to be free of conflict and more accepting, and our work relationships to be honest and helpful. Yet the reality seldom matches our longing.

The stark truth is that it is not easy to relate to others in love. We misunderstand and hurt even those for whom we care deeply. But the heart and center of personal relationships is forgiveness. The ability to forgive frees us to love and fail to love and still continue to grow together.

The possibility for genuine forgiveness in our relationships is nurtured by the daily experience of God's love and forgiveness. As we receive the healing power of God's forgiveness, we can both give to and receive forgiveness from others. Without the restoring effect of God's mercy, we remain locked up in our own guilt and defensiveness-afraid to trust ourselves or others.