Season 5, Episode 1
Cheryl Strayed + MILCK

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, photo by Holly Andres

Bestselling author Cheryl Strayed returns for another letter from her celebrated collection, Tiny Beautiful Things, which has just been adapted into a television series for Hulu. The letter is a meditation on self-forgiveness, and explores how forgiving yourself for past mistakes can be a doorway to forgiving others.

“The minute I can say to myself ‘I can be forgiven, because what’s true is that I know I was doing my best,’” Cheryl says, “I can grant that to other people, too.”

Dr. Suzanne Freedman

Dr. Suzanne Freedman

The episode began as a panel at the First Annual Global Conference on Forgiveness, which was convened by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. Along with Cheryl’s reading, the episode includes the perspective of an expert on the science of forgiveness, Dr. Suzanne Freedman. Dr. Freedman points out that forgiveness is often misunderstood – forgiving someone doesn’t mean reconciliation, and it doesn’t mean forgetting.

“Some people think, ‘Well, I haven’t forgiven because I still think about it,’” Dr. Freedman says. “You’re never going to forget a deep hurt.”


MILCK, photo by Eric Williams

The song that was written in response to Cheryl’s letter is by activist, producer, and songwriter Connie Lim, aka MILCK. Connie has spent years thinking about issues of forgiveness, especially those that arise around sexual assault.

“In the lens of domestic violence and sexual assault, forgiveness is a very tough and very personal thing,” Connie says. “Every survivor has their own approach with whether or not they want to forgive.”

Connie’s viral song “Quiet” – the unofficial anthem of the Women’s March – also relates to sexual assault. In the podcast, Connie talks about the difficult work she did after being assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. Granting forgiveness to this man required a tremendous amount of emotional labor, something that felt deeply unfair to Connie. Yet it also proved worthwhile.

“There’s a big cost to radically forgive,” Connie acknowledges. “And the reward is tremendous freedom. That is priceless.”


This episode was made possible by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and parts of this content first appeared at the 2022 Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing. For more, go to