Children Forgive Man Who Killed Their Father on Easter Sunday

CNA/EWTN News, Cleveland, Ohio, USA- They had to endure it all on Easter Sunday–grief over their father’s brutal killing, anguish because of a video of the actual killing posted on Facebook by the killer himself, and the agony of an ongoing nation-wide search to find that killer.

But through it all, the children of Robert Godwin Sr. still say they forgive the man who murdered their father.

“Each one of us forgives the killer. The murderer. We want to wrap our arms around him,” said Tonya Godwin Baines, one of Godwin Sr.’s 10 children. She said that it was her slain father who taught her, through the example of his life, how to forgive. “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God. How to fear God. How to love God. And how to forgive.”

On Sunday afternoon, 74-year-old Godwin Sr. was shot and killed in Cleveland while walking home from an Easter dinner with his family. Police said that the suspect, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, apparently chose his victim at random, and then uploaded a video of the murder to Facebook. The social media network removed the video three hours later.

Following a nationwide manhunt, authorities were notified by an alert McDonald’s employee on Tuesday morning that Stephens’ car was in the restaurant’s parking lot near Erie, Pa. After a brief pursuit by police, Stephens shot and killed himself while still in the driver’s seat.

Godwin Sr.’s children agreed to a live interview on CNN Monday night while Stephens was still on the run. Though shocked and deeply pained by their father’s brutal murder, the children said they felt sorry for his killer.

“I honestly can say right now that I hold no animosity in my heart against this man. Because I know that he’s a sick individual,” Debbie Godwin said  about Stephens. “We want him to know that, first of all, we forgive him. We forgive him because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what daddy taught us. It’s the way we was raised…”

“You know what, I believe that God would give me the grace to even embrace this man. And hug him,” Debbie Godwin added. “It’s just the way my heart is, it’s the right thing to do. And so, I just would want him to know that even in his worst state, he’s loved and there’s worth in him.”

Read more:
“Cleveland victim’s family: We forgive killer” – CNN news online.
“Easter in Cleveland” – KTSA Radio, San Antonio, TX.
“Family of Facebook murder victim: We forgive the killer” –   CNA/EWTN News.
How to Forgive – International Forgiveness Institute website.
Forgiveness Is a Choice
 by Robert D. Enright, PhD.

Grateful for Forgiveness

Editor’s Note: This is a Guest Blog written by Elior Nerel, a Holistic Coach and Educator in Indigenous Healing. Her web link is at the end of the blog.

Growing up in one of the most violent regions in the world has taught me that anything I care about can be taken from me at any second. As a child, I recall witnessing horrifically violent images constantly appearing on the television screen, and I still have memories of being confined in a bomb shelter during the 1991 Gulf War. Somehow because we were children, my peers and I accepted this routine –the common ritual of periodically fitting gas masks on our heads in case a chemical attack should occur— as “normal”. We internalized the fact that any time we rode the bus there might be a terrorist attack against it (and many times there was), and we would be left to deal with the turmoil which was the reality into which we were born.  We grew up with friends whose family members were brutally murdered in the middle of the street and who lost body parts or suffered horrific burns in terrorist attacks. Under these conditions, it was, and is, easy to hate and stereotype these “terrorists”, to wish them harm and never to consider what their lives are really like and what kinds of trauma they too have suffered.

But who are these “terrorists”? Do they have a name? A family? A dream for a safe home to return to? Is our pain from their attacks any greater or lesser than their pain? Although comparing pain is a slippery slope, one cannot help but wonder if we would all become “terrorists” if we were living under the same circumstances.  As it is simply expressed in the Native American proverb:


“Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.”


We can easily dwell on our personal traumas and forget that violence and loss are universal conditions that people experience every minute all over the world. Perhaps an even greater challenge is to remember which roles each one of us passively plays in the construction of violence and abuse, such as through discrimination, consumption, and unfair trade. We fight and compete for resources, land, jobs, and recognition. The battle is real, and we may even have evidence to justify it to a certain degree, but what does it do to our bodies, our health, and to our past, present and future relationships?

What I have learned from my personal experience and relationships with those families who have lost loved ones is that forgiveness is a practice. In order to move through the trauma of my early years as an Israeli I chose to adopt forgiveness and peace-work as a way of life. I understand how extremely short and fragile our lives are, and how crucial it is to place harmony with our environment as a priority. I have determined that spending our time in bitter punishment instead of restoring balance doesn’t help anyone. Forgiveness is not easy, but when done authentically and with a supportive group of professionals, it is a sustainable alternative to entrenched hatred and violence. A successful practice in forgiveness can become a building block in the joyful and meaningful lives we are all seeking to build. Practicing forgiveness has been restoring lives in many conflict stricken areas around the world such as Northern Ireland and South Africa.

How can we balance our needs to survive in our competitive modern world with the need to be compassionate and forgiving? For me, this juggling act of balancing the fragile scales of justice and mercy became easier once I uncomfortably realized that the capacity to inflict harm dwells in all human beings and that I myself cause harm unintentionally pretty much every single day. This understanding created an overwhelming emotion which left me feeling stuck in some surreal Stanford experiment. But I do believe we have a choice in transcending these animalistic tendencies by daring to embrace forgiveness and compassion, for the lives of all those involved in the conflicts. This path of action is not a quick fix, but nevertheless, it is possible. As my colleague Siobhan Chandler (Ph.D) explains, sometimes the first step in understanding how to move forward in a situation where there are multiple competing interests is to be intentional in asking for an outcome that is for the highest good of everyone involved. I believe that when we compassionately and respectfully consider the needs of others, we open a new gate of communication which re-humanizes our enemies and inches us towards a solution where it is possible that everyone’s needs are met.

My exposure to violence and conflict have opened me to participating in the growing forgiveness movement. More and more groups around the world have formed councils, restorative justice programs and healing circles, and have learned to overcome the trauma of human violence, to sit together, to talk, to listen, to forgive and to co-exist peacefully. These are people who have lost children to murder; who have lost their homes to bombing; who were betrayed and were left penniless. They have still managed to overcome the loss because they have realized that the enemy has a name, and a face, and a family and a story, just like we all do.

When the wounds of human violence are open and bleeding, delicate care and emotional sensitivity is required. The healing process often requires material and verbal reconciliation and restoration, but the foundational step is to recognize that a lack of forgiveness or justification of anger and revenge only destroys us, not our “enemy”, and makes us more physically sick, emotionally lonely and socially isolated. What if this form of “justice” doesn’t work, since whether it is us, or someone else committing a crime, when we place the stereotypical innocent victims against heartless criminals, both sides lose their humanity? As author David Wong said: “But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.”

I believe that deep down we all want to heal from the pains of losing that which we care about, to make sense of the losses we all experience in this hurting world. I wonder if at the heart of healing and forgiveness is the recognition that we all share excruciating moments (whether we admit them or not) of losing the irreplaceable – loved ones, romanticized dreams or unique possessions which we have cherished so deeply. Perhaps through this fundamental human recognition, we can decide to start healing by taking a small step and make forgiveness the topic of discussion over our next meal with those dear to our hearts.

by Elior Nerel

Elior Nerel

Holistic Coach and Educator in Indigenous Healing

http://www.hodaya.org

How to Live a Peaceful and Purposeful Life

Jamaica Observer, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I. – An unforgiving attitude can cause anxiety, depression, anger, insomnia, and physical pain. 

Those are the conclusions of a major research project entitled “Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health. A summary of the study was published in 2014 in the Journal of Health Psychology.

The researchers discovered that in those persons who exhibited the character trait of being highly forgiving, of both themselves and others, the connection between stress and mental illness was almost eliminated.

“When you forgive someone who has hurt you, you are literally taking back control of your life, and that simple yet difficult act delivers some positive pay-offs such as improved self-esteem, less anger, anxiety, and depression,” according to Dr. Jacqueline Campbell, a family physician who wrote the article for the Jamaica Observer. “Anger is a valuable emotion in that it can aid us in defining our personal boundaries; however, long-term and/or unresolved anger can literally burn out the body and soul.”

The undeniable conclusion, Dr. Campbell says, is that forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of living a peaceful and purposeful life.

The study researchers, all psychology professors from three different US universities, relied in part for their findings on Dr. Robert Enright’s book Exploring Forgiveness that he compiled together with Joanna North.

Read more: “Forgive them” in the Jamaica Observer.

Nigerian Man Splashed with Acid Forgives Perpetrator

niyitabiti.net, Lagos, Nigeria – A 24-year-old Nigerian man, Iniubong Ime, was roused from his sleep just after midnight on March 6, 2017. He stumbled out of his bedroom and opened the front door where he was confronted by his longtime girlfriend, Lucy Daniel. Before Ime could say a word, Daniel splashed his face, chest and arms with acid then ran off.

Today, after nearly a month in the hospital recovering from the acid burns, particularly in and around his eyes, Ime says he has forgiven Daniel who is being sought by the police but is still at large.

When a reporter from the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust interviewed Ime in his hospital bed, he asked the victim, “When you recover, will you seek vengeance?”

Ime responded, “That wouldn’t solve anything. I have decided to let it go and forgive her. In fact, I forgave her from the very day it happened. I thank God I’m still alive. I won’t take her back because I had long broken up with her before the incident. But I can relate normally with her. I have no hard feelings towards her. We won’t be lovers again, but she won’t be my enemy either.”

Read the full story at: Victim forgives lady who poured acid on him to punish him.

On the Vital Importance of Forgiveness Education

This blog first appeared here on June 9, 2014 

From the pen of Patrick Wells, producer, director, video journalist:

Formal Forgiveness Education, invented by Robert Enright, is the best idea the Human Race has had since Jesus preached Forgiveness.

Many people on the planet continue to exist within a tribe, sect, gang, race or mentality, unable to overcome hatred or prejudice against another group. This frequently manifests itself as violence. Learning how to forgive may be the best and fastest way to end systemic negativity against “other peoples.

Teaching the art and power of forgiveness to children may be both the best and the fastest way to positively change our world. The best opportunity we have is to treat forgiveness as a skill and teach it at an early age in our elementary schools. If we can convince our children of the power and importance of forgiveness, when they become adults they will certainly be able to make effective use of this vital skill.

Forgiveness has the potential to transform our communities that have not known peace for decades and reshape our world.

First published in The Washington Post, March 26, 2010: “Embracing Forgiveness Education to Reshape Our World.” Patrick Wells

Read the full article as reprinted on Jan. 25, 2011 by rsn (Reader Supported News): “EMBRACING FORGIVENESS EDUCATION TO RESHAPE OUR WORLD.”

Robert

Does it take a long time to forgive someone?

The length of time will vary depending on how experienced a person is with the practice of forgiveness, how deeply the person was hurt, who hurt the person, whether or not the  other person is still being hurtful, and whether or not the other has apologized and seems sincere in that. Even if you are faced with the situation in which you have not practiced forgiveness much, you are deeply hurt, by someone who is supposed to love you, with on-going injustice and no apology, it still is possible to forgive.  It may take six months; it may take a year.  Yet, you likely will sense the progress being made (reduced anger, a confidence in the process, as examples).  So, do not think about forgiveness as “all or nothing.”  In other words, you will not need a year before you start to feel some psychological relief.  The positive changes can be rewarding and increase your motivation to keep on the forgiveness path.