Many of us make mistakes in our lives. We hurt other people and disappoint them. That doesn't make us bad people. We're all works in progress. We're bound to let each other down from time to time. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to say “I’m sorry,” and to accept other people’s apologies when they are brave enough to offer them.

When I was in my twenties, I had a best friend by the name of Meg. Meg and I had known each other since junior high. We used to hang out at my friend Jill's house. Jill lived across the street from me in Wyckoff, New Jersey and owned 5 acres of property. She had several horses and we spent many happy hours in the pasture, grooming the horses, riding if we dared, and stealing moonshine from Jill's stepfather's cellar.

When I was old enough to drive, I spent more time at Meg's than I did at Jill's. Meg's family was Italian -- directly from Brooklyn -- and they became a second family to me. They were inadvertently funny, kind of like the folks in Mambo Italiano, and they were beautiful people. To this day, I'm still in touch with Meg's mother and her sister, whom we nicknamed “Peanut” because she was so short.

Throughout our teens and twenties, Meg and I saw each other four to five times a week, and talked to each other daily on the phone. We took the bus into New York City and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Cloisters. We saw concerts at the Fillmore East in Greenwich Village and at Madison Square Garden. And Meg and I spent many quiet nights alone in her room. She played guitar and sang Joni Mitchell songs with the voice of an angel. We talked about everything from relationships to politics and literature. It was the late sixties and we sat on the floor of Meg's bedroom, smoking cigarettes and other cash crops, and solving all of the world's problems. Unlike Bill Clinton, we never claimed that we didn't inhale!

In many ways, being best friends was like being married. No one could have been more intimate or loved each other more than Meg and I. But one day I betrayed Meg. I got involved with her boyfriend and she stopped speaking to me for three years. That broke my heart. I did everything I could to make things up to her but she wouldn't accept my apology.

If I hadn't had a nasty car accident in 1981, Meg may never have forgiven me for hurting her. But as it turned out, I was seriously injured by a drunk driver when I was 28 years old. The accident received a lot of publicity and I appeared in the newspaper and on TV. Because of this, Meg called me up in the hospital and made amends. She forgave me and asked if she could come up to see me. I said no. I accepted her apology gratefully but I was wary about seeing her in my fragile state. I had broken 11 bones, punctured and collapsed a lung, and had a head injury. I was connected to all kinds of tubes and on heavy medication.

I didn't want any arguments or drama in my life, but I promised that I would call Meg when I got out of the hospital. I felt good about our friendship again. And I didn't think anything about postponing a meeting with her because I was preoccupied with my own recovery. I spent three weeks in intensive care and almost three months in orthopedics. It took me a year to learn how to walk again. Recovering from the accident took up all of my time and energy.

About six months after my car accident, Meg committed suicide. She shot herself in the head with her brother’s gun. 26 years old. She had everything to live for but she had been depressed for years, and had a drug problem that she could not kick. I was devastated. I went to her grave regularly to cry, to talk to her, and to yell at her for taking the cowardly way out. It took many years for me to come to terms with Meg’s suicide, and I would never have fully accepted it if she hadn't called me in the hospital a few months before she had taken her life.

Forgiveness -- it's such a simple concept but such a hard thing to practice. How much easier it is for us to hold on to our resentments, thinking that we have all the time in the world to straighten things out with someone else down the line.

I would like to encourage all of you to think about the people in your life. Is there someone that you’re mad at? Have you been holding on to a grudge, or waiting for a certain person to approach you? Be a big person. Make the first move. Let go of past hurts and disappointments. The hardest people — the ones that really push your buttons — are the very people you need to address first to make a huge leap forward in your emotional life.

It's not a question of whether or not they deserve to be forgiven. You are not forgiving them for their sake. You're doing it for yourself. For your own physical and mental health and well-being, forgiveness is crucial. It frees you from the toxic drain of rage and disappointment.

My friend Meg may be dead and gone but she forgave me before she passed on. I've learned a hard lesson from her sad demise. I don't stay mad at anyone anymore. If there are problems in my relationships, I make every effort to resolve them. I urge you to do the same. It's never too late to say that you're sorry or to accept someone else's apology. Even the Dalai Lama has forgiven the Chinese and anticipates the day that the Tibetans and Chinese can be friends again.

To quote an old anonymous proverb

”To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was YOU."

Author's Bio: 

Sigrid Macdonald is a freelance writer from Ottawa, Ontario. She is the author of GETTING HIP: Recovery from a Total Hip Replacement and D'Amour Road, a novel. Her writings can be found at