Forgiveness, I begin to see, is not about pretending you don't feel angry or hurt. It's about responding out of kindness rather than rage. It's about letting yourself feel the full spectrum of emotions—grief and anger and hurt, but also kindness and compassion. Even toward someone who's hurt you deeply.

So that's how Bud Welch, whose daughter, Julie, died in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, can honestly say he wishes Timothy McVeigh had not been put to death. It explains how grieving mother Pearlie Burgess could stand up in a Syracuse, New York, courtroom last spring and forgive the man convicted of killing her daughter. And how Marianne Rosen can wish she could have lunch with her father.

I'm a long way off from that kind of forgiveness, but I'm starting to get a sense of the possibilities. I'm not ready to let go of my "content," and I don't at the moment want a closer relationship with my mother. But as we file out of the conference room, I decide on a first step—because I understand, now, that forgiveness requires a decision. You have to invite it. As I walk down Lexington Avenue in the glorious late-afternoon light, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I picture my mother and imagine my heart opening.

Ready to Forgive—or be Forgiven?

From the May 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.