04/25/2014 02:47 pm ET Updated Jun 25, 2014

Forgiveness, Loving and Responsibility

Simple steps to forgiveness
Every time I drove by the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and 53rd Street, I'd get mad, even after 15 years.

That's when a stoned-out driver darted in front of me. I swerved, but we still crashed at the left front of my car. The damage was mostly temporary -- about a year of whiplash, mental fog and dealing with insurance companies and lawyers.

But the long-term damage was my unwillingness to forgive.

Power of forgiveness:
Most likely, you've heard about the power of forgiveness. Holding on to bitterness or anger is like gripping a hot coal in your hand. It burns you rather than those you've not forgiven. And as you probably also know, holding on to anger can keep you from resting or sleeping at night.

Forgiveness, you think, might be a good idea. But you may not know how to get there from here.

That was me. Despite saying "I forgive you," and sending (admittedly pitiful) positive energy the driver's way every time I passed that corner, I'd continue to feel pissed at him.

After 15 years, it was time to let go. And last week I figured out how. You may also find it helps you, so you can forgive and rest at night.

Finding your gift of forgiveness
To forgive, we often try to think good thoughts about those who have harmed us. Sometimes that gets the forgiveness ball rolling.

But when that doesn't, you can -- oddly enough -- start forgiving by focusing on you. As in what did you learn from the experience?

Last week, I thought of what I learned from the car accident: to drive much more defensively. Specifically, I learned to stop putting the entire blame on the other driver. No, he didn't look, and maybe there was nothing else I could have done, but I also crashed into him.

It was a small lesson, but when I realized I had gotten something from the experience, it changed my view.

Once I could see this spaced-out driver as the opportunity for me to learn, forgiveness came quickly. Now, I'm no longer irked when I drive past that intersection.

Those who done you wrong
But what about those who've really done you wrong?

How do you forgive lovers who cheated or lied, bullies who backed you into a corner, siblings who excluded you, co-workers taking credit for your work? It's harder to forgive -- or to see what you've learned from someone -- when you feel it was personal, especially if the pain is still sharp.

One way to forgive is to understand why you were there.

Perhaps early on you knew, on some level, that the lover who lied was telling tales. Maybe you didn't want to recognize it, because you yearned for a relationship that was your fantasy ideal. You craved "happily ever after" so much, that you ignored the real person right in front of you. When you discovered it really was a fantasy, you got hurt by the lies.

But here's the thing. When you discover you put yourself there -- by not honoring what you knew in the beginning -- you can understand and forgive yourself. With that foundation, it's easier to forgive the one who lied to you.

No, it's not easy to look at yourself. But it's worth the freedom to live the life you want.

How does this help you rest at night?
When you let go of what's infuriating you at night -- and that includes the simple act of changing your relationship to it -- you can return focus to your body and rest.

Does this method of forgiveness work for you? Let me know. And here's a great blog about the power of forgiveness, if you want to learn more.

May you find freedom to let go and be the best of who you are.

Enjoy your nights,