Monday, August 19, 2019
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Is Forgiveness Forced or Expected?
Published May 30, 2019

Wendy Gladney 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who was killed over seven years ago, recently gave an interview with ESSENCE magazine sharing that she has not forgiven the man who killed her son. As a mother and grandmother, my heart definitely feels her pain. But as an Ambassador of Forgiveness and someone who believes that forgiveness really can change your life, I would encourage her, as well as others, to rethink holding onto pain, anger and bitterness that traps one in a cycle of unforgiveness.

Ms. Fulton is a strong mother and woman who has vowed to be a voice for both of her sons, Trayvon and Jahvaris. Her voice has been, and is, the voice for many that feel hopeless and helpless. She has decided to use her voice on a higher level by running for public office in Florida – the very state where her son was killed. As part of her platform, she plans to push gun violence prevention. Her son Travyon was a 17-year-old African American who was fatally shot by a White man named George Zimmerman. Trayvon was unarmed and George used the excuse that he felt threatened and therefore shot him. Since this tragedy, Ms. Fulton has been sought out to speak around the country. During her speeches she often ends with a call to action letting people know that if they really want to see change it starts with them.

I applaud Ms. Fulton for taking her own advice and throwing her hat into the ring to run for public office. Change does start with us. The past seven years served as on-the-ground training and exposed her on a higher level as to what is happening in society. Although marching and protesting is good, it will not change things alone. Yes, we need marching and protesting, but we also need people who are willing to put in the work to help change laws and procedures of how things are done.

With no disrespect to Ms. Fulton, or the pain she has felt in the loss of her son, I would like to challenge her and give her a call to action to rethink opening her heart and forgive. If she plans to serve people and be a public servant, forgiveness will be a crucial tool in her toolbox. In her article with ESSENCE she mentioned that African Americans aren’t forced to forgive but are (often) expected to forgive. When we look historically at all of the atrocities that have happened to African American people, this makes sense. Slavery, rape, the severance of families, murder, and the list goes on. But we must not think of forgiveness as an obligation, but rather as a gift to oneself and others. Not just in the African American community, but all of humanity. We must be willing to be vulnerable and open up our hearts if we want to see change.

Ms. Fulton closed out her interview by saying that forgiveness will come in her own time and on her own terms. I hope that time comes quickly for the sake of the people she may have the pleasure of serving. When we look at great leaders that left their mark on society, they all had to extend some level of forgiveness and most of the time it was not easy. Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi to name just a few. The Harvard Business Review did an article about the tragedy of leaders who can’t forgive. The statement that stood out to me was, “People who cannot forgive get stuck into a downward spiral of negativity, taking everyone around them with them.” Let’s be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to stand tall.

Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on!

Visit www.WendyEnterprises.com, www.SeasonofGreatness.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is an international coach, consultant, author and speaker.

Categories: Opinion | Wendy Gladney
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