Back in elementary school, I thought that forgiveness was a game. Every year we would review the laws of the holidays, and when it came to the laws of Yom Kippur, the teacher would tell us that we must ask forgiveness of our friends before we ask G‑d to forgive us.

So I would dutifully walk over to Shimmy and say, "Do you forgive me?" And he would smile and say, "Sure I forgive you! Do you forgive me?" I would hastily answer "Sure!" and run over to David and do the spiel all over again. You forgive; I forgive. As meaningless as a handshake between diplomats.

As I grew older, my emotional intelligence grew, my self-awareness developed, and I came to realize that forgiveness is not child's play, but serious business, a real ego-dynamite, and that "Sorry" is not (just) a board game.

I learned that sometimes it takes more courage to ask for forgiveness than to be the one to grant it.

And I also learned that as hard as forgiveness can be between acquaintances, it's still child's play compared to the guts and humility it takes to drive the two-way street (asking for and granting forgiveness) between ourselves and those closest to us: our parents, our siblings, our spouse.

It hurts to walk over to the person whom you love so much, and inevitably hurt, and ask for forgivenessIt hurts to walk over to the person whom you love so much, and inevitably hurt, and ask for forgiveness. Many will say that asking forgiveness from a loved one ranks as the most awkward encounter in a person's life.

But it is the most important act of forgiveness we can ever do. It is the most challenging, and as a consequence, the most rewarding. Forgiving those you love makes your life happier and healthier, and initiates tremendous self-growth. Forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as it benefits the forgiven. It brings closure.

There is nothing more healing in a relationship than the balm of forgiveness. "I am sorry, Mom and Dad!" "I accept your apology, honey, and I want you to know that I love you regardless. I will always love you and accept you."

In case we hurt our loved ones in any way throughout the past year, now is the time to bring the relationship full circle. Not as diplomats, but with self-awareness, honesty, and with our whole heart.

In summary: Heroes are those who treat the people in their homes with at least the same courtesy as the nameless gas station owner on a lonely highway.