After Nine Agonizing Months of Captivity, Elizabeth Smart is Freed, Forgives Her Kidnappers

The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com – You’ve probably read or heard the story, but it’s worth repeating with a final twist.

In the early morning hours of June 5, 2002 — the day after she received awards for excellence in physical fitness and academics at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah — 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home at knifepoint.  The next day, the FBI told her parents, “If she’s not home in the first 48 hours, she’s probably not coming home.”

Smart did not return home quickly despite a massive regional search effort involving up to 2,000 volunteers each day, as well as dogs and planes. The search continued for weeks.

Her abductors, homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee, held her at encampments in the woods 18 miles from her home and in San Diego County, CA.  They kept her shackled to a tree with a metal cable to keep her from escaping.

Nine agonizing months of captivity

Mitchell repeatedly raped Smart during her captivity, sometimes multiple times daily, told her she would never see her family again if she tried to escape, and regularly threatened to kill her. He often forced her to drink alcohol and take drugs to lower her resistance, and he both starved her and fed her garbage. 

Elizabeth Smart (left) and her captors.

Smart endured the unimaginable for nine agonizing months before she was spotted with Mitchell and Barzee in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003 by a couple who had seen Mitchell’s photos on the news. Smart – disguised in a gray wig, sunglasses, and veil – was recognized by officers during questioning, and Mitchell and Barzee were arrested.

After years of delays and mental evaluations, Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in sexual activity. On December 11, 2010, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For her role, Barzee eventually was sentenced to concurrent terms of fifteen years in state and federal prison.

Forgiveness is not acceptance

For Smart, the ordeal carried a heavy price tag but she says she has long since forgiven her captors and has not allowed it to define her life. During a recent presentation at Indiana University Kokomo, she explained it this way:

“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a victim anymore. I see an activist, I see a wife, I see a mother, I see a friend, I see someone I’m proud to be. 

It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we decide to do next, how we move forward, how we pursue our lives.

It’s not the acceptance of the action done against you. I don’t think forgiveness is saying, ‘It’s OK that you raped me.’ It’s not saying, ‘We’re going to be friends now.’

I will never be OK with the act of rape. There is no circumstance on earth in which I will say rape is OK.

It is not that you accepted the evil that was done to you. It is an acknowledgment that it has happened, and that you have dealt with your anger, your grief, and your pain, and you are able to then move on.

It’s loving yourself enough to let go of your pain and move forward.

If I get to the end of my life, if I die, and I find out religion is one big lie, I still won’t regret it because it’s helped me to live a better life, to be a better person, to care about people, to believe in forgiveness, to believe in hope.”

Since her abduction, Smart has gone on to become an advocate for missing persons and victims of sexual assault. With encouragement from her family, Smart has stepped into the public eye, writing two best-selling books, and lobbying with her father for laws to protect children including the Protect Act of 2003.

Smart also founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, to raise awareness of predatory child crimes. She is now married to Matthew Gilmour; the couple has two young children.


Read more:

Kidnapped at 14, held captive and raped, Elizabeth Smart says now: I was lucky – The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com

Elizabeth Smart shares story of hope, triumph, forgiveness – Indiana University Kokomo 

Elizabeth Smart Biography – BIOGRAPHY.COM


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Teen with Terminal Cancer Responds to Cyberbullies with Forgiveness

The Daily Signal, Waco, Texas – Jeremiah Thomas—a 16-year-old all-star, state champion football player from Waco, TX—was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive bone cancer just four months ago. Since  then, he has battled chemotherapy, radiation, a collapsed lung, and paralysis from the waist down. 

Cancer-fighter Jeremiah Thomas

Unfortunately, Jeremiah has also had to endure despicable scorn and  taunts from many  social media trolls. With perhaps only weeks left to live, Jeremiah has been accosted numerous times on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with some deplorable messages:

“Jeremiah … You aren’t dead yet? God, do your job!” taunted one anonymous writer.

“Good Riddance,” another posted to Jeremiah’s prayer group page on Facebook.

And Jeremiah’s mother, Kendra Thomas, quoted one person as saying Jeremiah has “a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic [sic], hateful” agenda, and another as saying “He’s garbage and is suffering as he deserves.”

All that hate and vitriol was generated because Jeremiah made a “legacy wish” through the 38-year-old Make-A-Wish Foundation that some social media respondents apparently found offensive. As his final wish, Jeremiah dared to call for the abolition of abortion in Texas.

When that wish circulated around to Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, he called Jeremiah and spoke with him in his hospital bed in June about passing a bill to abolish abortion in the state in order to make Jeremiah’s “legacy wish” a reality.

The teen made his reasoning for that request public on June 24 by posting “A Letter to My Generation,” describing his Christian faith and writing in part:

We have grown up in a culture of death, sexual confusion, immorality and fatherlessness. This culture of death I speak of consists of abortion, homosexuality and suicide. One-third of our generation has been wiped out due to  abortion; 60 million babies have been murdered. Over 25 million people have died as a result of AIDS. We have been handed a bill of goods that has completely destroyed us. In our nation, we have chosen death and received the curse.

While struggling with his terminal illness–known as osteoblastic osteosarcoma–would certainly be enough suffering for most people, Jeremiah has been handling the hate mail gracefully.

“Its kind of sickening,” Jeremiah says.  “I pray for them…What has happened to people to make them think like that?”

Jeremiah’s mother adds, “Jesus has given him a special grace to forgive. He tells his siblings, ‘Just forgive. We can’t return evil for evil.’”

Jeremiah’s family had set up a GoFundMe page three months ago to help raise money for surgery. It had reached $118,659 as of Aug. 11.


Read more: 

‘Just forgive’: Pro-life teen with cancer responds to pro-choice hate

Teen With Terminal Cancer Forgives Cyberbullies as He Fights ‘Culture of Death’


 

New Book Strives to “Make Forgiveness Easy”

“Forgiveness is like a superpower that hardly anyone ever uses.”

Forgiveness, once you know how to do it, is transformational. It will bring you a freedom and a peace that will make your whole life feel easier.”

“This book. . . is your opportunity to meet forgiveness afresh and learn how to use it to change your life, and your world, for the better.”

Barbara J. Hunt enthralls her readers with precious nuggets like those in the introduction to her new book Forgiveness Made Easy: The Revolutionary Guide to Moving Beyond Your Past and Truly Letting Go. 

Yes, those snippets are all from just the introduction. Wait until you read the gems in Chapter Two – Forgiveness Is For You; or those in Chapter Six – Resentment; or the seven-step forgiveness process she lays out in Chapter Nine – The Forgiveness Made Easy Process; or. . . well, I think you get the idea.

Barbara J. Hunt

Forgiveness Made Easy is crammed not only with real-life forgiveness guidance but also with real-life accounts of how Hunt has helped real people learn how to forgive and create a new life for themselves. Those stories come from Hunt’s more than 25 years of experience as an international mentor, life coach and facilitator.

“I wrote this book because I see forgiveness as a fundamental life skill that is rarely taught. Or, if it is, not taught at the necessary depth to be effective, let alone transformational,” Hunt explains. “I offer a forgiveness practice that is simple, effective, and easy.”

Hunt closes out the book with an invitation, as well as a challenge: to join her in connecting with the grandest vision for forgiveness–achieving global peace, one heart at a time.

“Forgiveness is the laying down of arms and defences,” she writes. “When you put aside your personal weapons and surrender the shield over your heart, your forgiveness becomes an act of amnesty for humanity. Together, we can be the (r)evolution of peace.”


Purchase the book at: Amazon.com
Read the book’s Table of Contents and Introduction
Learn more at the Forgiveness Made Easy official website
Visit the Barbara J. Hunt website Evolutionary Coaching


This book review was written by Dennis Blang, Director, International Forgiveness Institute.

HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR A BIG MISTAKE—EVEN IF NO ONE ELSE WILL

Editor’s Note: Well+Good, a website launched in 2010, bills itself as “the premier lifestyle and news publication devoted to the wellness scene.” Here are excerpts from its March 12, 2018 article on how to forgive yourself, let go of the past, and create a more meaningful feature. 


Photo: Stocksy/Artem Zhushman

You messed up big-time.  You feel awful and you want to make things right with the person you’ve hurt. You’ve finally worked up the courage to say, from the bottom of your heart, that you’re deeply sorry. But—surprise!—they don’t want to hear it. For them, the damage is done and their anger towards you is too strong for any kind of forgiveness.

It can be devastating for an apology to be denied, but another person’s forgiveness of you and your actions doesn’t have to determine how you continue to treat others—and, ultimately, yourself. Of course, that’s no easy task for many, considering we’re infinitely harder on ourselves than anyone else.


“I forgive” really is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.                                                                                                       Aly Semigran, Well+Good


“When we break our own standards, a lot of times we won’t let ourselves ‘off the hook,’ so to speak,” says Robert Enright, PhD, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and author of Forgiveness Is a Choice. “Self-forgiveness is not a free pass to keep up the nonsense. It’s to restore your humanity to yourself, as you correct [the damage you’ve done].”

Okay, but how?

Apologize without expectations

Even if you don’t think the hurt party will forgive you, Enright says that apologizing is the right thing to do, and it’s an important step in the process of self-forgiveness.  “Seeking forgiveness and forgiving yourself go hand in hand,” proclaims Enright.

Make an effort to right your wrongs

You should also make an effort to right your wrongs—for instance, paying your roommate back if you’ve been sneaking money from her wallet. “You can set yourself free knowing you’ve done the best you can,” says Enright. “You can get rid of the resentment towards yourself, understanding that you are a human being, and try to see you’re a person beyond what you’ve done. You’re more than that action.”

Dive deep into your emotions with a therapist, friend, or journaling

Photo: Stocksy/Kim Jay

The cycle of guilt and self-loathing is far too easy a place to get stuck, sometimes for a very long time. And it can have a serious impact on your health—when you stay trapped in a shame loop, it can lead to issues such as sleeplessnessdepression, self-medication, and lack of proper nutrition and/or exercise. (Not to mention it’s a blow to your gut health.)

Enright suggests those on a journey of self-forgiveness try things such as going to a respected therapist, seeking out a friend or confidante, trying meditation  or mindfulness, or journaling to deal with ongoing emotions and thoughts.

Don’t get attached to the outcome 

While you’re working to forgive yourself, it’s important not to get stuck on the other person’s reaction to you. “Your forgiving yourself should never be [contingent on] what the other person does or says,” Enright says. “It’s the same thing with forgiving another: If I want to forgive another, but I have to wait for their apology, then I’m still trapped in that resentment.”

You don’t have to sabotage your own happiness when you do something terrible. Learn to forgive yourself.

Read the entire article: How to Forgive Yourself for a Big Mistake


Read other forgiveness articles on Well+Good:


 

Forgiveness: A Good Night’s Sleep Depends On It

On an average night, 60 million Americans cannot sleep. If you are one of them, here’s help.

by Jane Walsh

In today’s overworked and overstimulated world, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. In fact, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Missing the recommended seven hours a night puts people at higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

The causes of poor sleep are multifaceted ranging from poor sleep hygiene to mental health issues — including, stress, anger, and resentment. Forgiveness therefore plays a crucial role in restoring health and happiness and getting a full night’s sleep.

Main causes of poor sleep

Poor sleep is often the result of poor sleep hygiene: healthy habits necessary for deep, restful sleep and optimal alertness during the day. Good sleep hygiene can include getting enough exercise and sunlight during the day, unwinding in the evening, and creating a peaceful and comfortable atmosphere in your bedroom. Additionally, shift work can cause frequent sleep disruption and fatigue. In this case, it’s essential to practice good sleep hygiene and stick to a sleep schedule that works for you.

Moreover, insomnia and poor sleep are frequently caused by psychological issues, such as, stress, resentment, holding grudges, and the desire for revenge. When you harbour these negative feelings, your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. As a result, you’re too stressed, angry, and fired up to sleep.

The power of forgiveness for sleep

Whether you’ve fallen out with your other half or are harboring a long-term grudge against a relative, conflict and resentment can have a negative impact on your health — and consequently your sleep. Taking steps toward forgiveness can transform your health — it lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart attack — and will allow you to fall asleep easier for longer periods of time.

Forgiveness is such a positive thing for health largely due to its power to decrease or eradicate those negative feelings of tension, anger, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. When you choose to forgive, you let go of hostility, anger, and ideas of revenge surrounding past events. As a result, your body is allowed to heal. Stress hormones decrease and feel-good endorphins are better able to flood the body.

Ultimately, feeling resentful is a choice — one that negatively impacts your physical, emotional, and mental health. When you choose to forgive, your whole quality of life will improve. When your head hits the pillow, there’ll be no more mental barriers separating you from sleep.


About the author:

Jane Walsh is a freelance writer whose articles cover a range of topics that can only be described as diverse. Here are a few examples of her work:

“Cracking Down On Boiler Room Fraud – Self Defense Tactics To Fight Off The Crooks” Forbes, Sept 9, 2017

“Teachers Who Care Have the Potential to Turn Failing Students into Successful Adults” Nov. 14, 2017

“What Banks Do Not Want You to Know — The Huge Markup They Pocket on Your Currency Exchange” Sept. 24, 2017

“The DIY Generation Embraces Technology-Based Learning” Oct. 6, 2017

After spending more than a decade working as an emergency nurse and first-responder, and after starting a family, Jane took a step back and now spends her time working as a freelance content manager and writer. You can reach her at Jane.Walsh.Writer@gmail.com.


 

After Near-Fatal Shooting, Woman Forgives Husband Who Hired Hitman to Kill Her

BBC (UK) World Service Website, Carrollton, Texas – When Nancy (Shore) Howard drove home from church one day in August 2012, she was confronted in her garage by an armed masked man who grabbed her around the neck and demanded her purse. As she struggled to get free, the man shot her. The bullet traveled through her head and pierced her left eye before lodging in her right lung.

When she recovered consciousness, Nancy could barely breathe and was in excruciating pain. Somehow, miraculously, she struggled into the house and was able to call emergency services.

Nancy Howard’s story is told in the book
The Shooting of Nancy Howard

At the hospital, police were able to contact Nancy’s husband– John Franklin Howard, known to everyone as Frank–who quickly flew home from an out-of-town trip. The three children the couple had raised during their 30-year marriage were also soon at their mother’s bedside.

While Nancy is undergoing painful repairs to her face, throat, and  paralyzed right arm, detectives aggressively pursue suspects, including Frank. They first discover that Nancy’s husband has been having a three-year affair. A few days later, they uncover connections between her CPA husband and a group known as the East Texas gang. The story becomes increasingly bizarre as evidence surfaces of a murder-for-hire conspiracy initiated–to Nancy’s horror–by her husband.

Investigators eventually uncover evidence that Frank has been paying large sums to the criminal gang–apparently to kill his wife–and that gang members were exploiting him for more and more money. The money source is Frank’s rich client, from whom he has extorted over six-million dollars, some of which he has used to give his mistress extravagant gifts. Frank is arrested and charged with attempted capital murder.

At Frank’s trial, the jury took only two hours to find him guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison and will have to serve 30 years before he will be considered for parole. By then he will be about 85 years old. A year later, the shooter is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to sixty years.

Nancy Howard Pic3
Nancy Howard after multiple surgeries, fitting of prosthetic left eye, and months of rehab. Photo by Daniel Bostick, BBC.

“I have forgiven him,” Nancy says of her husband. “The Bible says that if we don’t forgive those who have harmed us then we are unable to be forgiven and I couldn’t afford not to forgive him because I couldn’t live with bitterness.”

She goes on to say, “It’s because I still loved him at the time, and you know I have to say I still love him, not in a romantic love, but in a love that he’s the father of my children, and there’s always going to be a love there.”

Nancy says she “vigorously” celebrates every birthday she has had since the shooting and still experiences joy singing in the church choir. Nearly six years after the horror of the attack on her doorstep, she is moving on.

“I’m able to be thankful once again for how God has saved my life and the healing that’s happening in my children’s lives, it’s awesome,” she says. “I’m excruciatingly happy.”


Read the full story on BBC World Service: “My husband hired a hitman to kill me – but I forgive him”

Listen to Nancy Shore speaking to Outlook on the BBC

Read Nancy’s story: The Shooting of Nancy Howard: A Journey Back to Shore
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Son Forgives Abusive Father Who Fractured the Boy’s Skull 14 Times in 3 Years

Ciril Čuš, who grew up during the ’60s in Žetale, a small Slovenian parish on the border of Croatia, comes from a traditional Catholic family with two brothers and a sister. But there was nothing traditional about his childhood, his abusive father who nearly beat him to death, and his long journey down the path to forgiveness.

Ciril’s  father worked as a builder and one day took a fall from 16 feet, spending a month in a coma. After the accident, he wasn’t the same. He started drinking, becoming very aggressive — and young Ciril was often the target. Between the ages of 7 and 10,  Ciril’s head was fractured with a blunt object 14 times.

When his father was sober, he was a wonderful man; he taught his children a lot. But when he was drunk, he wasn’t safe to be around.

Ciril had to escape through the window several times and spent many nights in the barn. He was afraid to sleep because he had terrible nightmares. He had learning difficulties and barely finished school. When he was 10, he contemplated suicide. At 12, he took a job picking produce so he could get away from home and pay for his education. At 14, he wanted to run away from home but felt he had nowhere to go.

The abuse and distance from his father led Ciril to take up karate in school. Determined to prove himself — and protect himself — he won the national Slovenian kickboxing championship and became a kung fu coach.

After secondary school, Ciril got a job and moved to a nearby town. But, with a lot of time on his hands, he would often visit the local library. It was there that he started reading the Bible. ”I was drawn to the word of God, more and more every day.”

Convinced by a neighbor to accompany him to a Sunday church service, Ciril was revulsed by what he saw as the antics of the charismatic worshippers and he decided never to enter a church again. But his friend convinced him to try it a second time and that was when he heard a woman speaking about her husband who beat her and cheated on her, but she was still able to forgive him.

“For the first time in my life, I realized what my biggest problem was — that I was not able to forgive my father.” Ciril remembers.  “I was so angry that I even considered killing him.”

In order to be able to forgive, a priest suggested that Ciril pray so he prayed a Rosary for his father every day and even made a solemn promise to God that he would pray until he could forgive his father. After a year and a half he realized that prayer alone was not enough, that he had to go to his father and tell him he forgave him.

Although he was somehow able to generate the courage to go meet with his father, there was no mutual forgiveness but from that point on Ciril prayed two rosaries a day instead of one.

After three years of praying, Ciril approached his father again. He apologized for everything he had done wrong. He told him that he was his only father and he loved him very much. In response, his father grabbed a knife and shouted, “I will kill you like a pig!” Ciril escaped while his father ran to the garage to get a chain saw. Ciril’s response: he began praying three rosaries a day instead of two.

Nine months and more than 800 rosaries later, Ciril learned that his father was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, coughing up blood and that his doctors told him he only had a month to live. Determined to forgive him before his father died, Ciril approached him once again.

“I took his hand, looked him in the eyes, told him I forgave him, that I was sorry for everything, and that I loved him,” Ciril recalls. “I held his head close to my heart. It was the first time in my life that I hugged my father.”

From that moment on, Ciril’s father stopped drinking and peace returned to the family. For the first time ever, Ciril saw his father embrace his mother and heard him tell his brothers and his sister that he loved them. His father lived another 16 years.

”Once I forgave, I was happy, joyful. This real encounter with God is more powerful than any hatred, curse, suffering or distress,” says Ciril. He never stopped praying, either. Today he is a parish priest in a small Slovenian town.

Ciril now says he realizes that he had to walk his path of suffering to be able to understand and help people who go through similar experiences. His life bears a powerful witness. He travels a lot around the world, witnessing about his experience of forgiveness.

”If we do not forgive, we stop God’s blessing from entering and God cannot work within us” Ciril says. “Forgiveness means establishing a new relationship with another person. And that is a great gift from God. But everyone has his own path. Sometimes it takes a long time.”


Read the full story: His father abused him, fracturing his skull 14 times, but he was still able to forgive – Aleteia, June 6, 2018

Aleteia (aleteia.org) is an online publication distributed in eight languages (English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Polish and Slovenian). Its website “offers a Christian vision of the world by providing general and religious content that is free from ideological influences.” With more than 430,000 subscribers to its newsletter and more than 3 million fans on Facebook, Aleteia reaches more than 11 million unique visitors a month.