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.

Checking in Regarding Your Unfolding Love Story

At the beginning of this year, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2017.

One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2017 so far.
Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague.

Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?

Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because 2017 is about 25% over. Have you engaged in 25% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?

This exercise is meant to show you this: You know love.  Now the key is to persevere and deliberately strive to love on a daily basis.

Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.

Robert

I am trying to forgive my mother for some things that happened years ago. I am not feeling very angry now and so I am wondering: Am I over this or might I be repressing my anger? How can a person tell if they are repressing anger?

One test of repressed anger is this: As you think of giving the gift of kindness and compassion to your mother, do you feel free inside to give these gifts to her?  If the answer is yes, then you may be over the hurt (whether by forgiveness or some other means).  If you are hesitant to give these gifts to your mother, then you likely do have repressed anger. Starting a forgiveness process and being patient with this may reduce the anger.

A Specific Forgiveness Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. CoupleLet the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally, are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing from the past to your relationship.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in theThe Forgiving Life-Cover virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

Forgiveness and Helplessness

Psychologists tell us that the thoughts and feelings of helplessness can devastate a person. When we think we are trapped with no way out, then we start to feel hopeless, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

helpless6The thought that there is no way out is the big lie.

Yes, you may not be able to do much about the current behavioral situation.

The actions in which you engage may be limited.  This does not at all mean that your inner world is trapped with no way out.  You can overcome the inner sense of helplessness by forgiving those who have contributed to your limited actions.

You are free inside to forgive, to reduce resentment, and even to cure this disease of resentment, which can be much worse than reduced behavioral options.

You are much freer than you think. helpless5When all around you are mean and unrealistic and hurtful, your inner world can be filled with a forgiveness that gives you joy and confidence and hope.

Am I being unrealistic?  Put me to the test.  Try to forgive and see how your inner world transforms.

And then never be trapped in that inner world ever again.

Robert

Love and Forgiveness Prevail in the Face of Hatred

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C. – More than 30 witnesses, all relatives of the nine people Dylann Roof shot down in the Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study in June 2015, registered to speak during the sentencing portion of his trial. Before the Judge ultimately sentenced Roof to death, the witnesses spoke  directly to the self-avowed white supremacist for the first time.

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of shooting victim Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., reminded Roof of her message at his bail hearing that “hate won’t win.” She told him those words held true. Though he hoped to drive people apart, he instead brought people closer together, she said. He had failed in his mission to sow division through his twisted and bloody plan.  emanuel_victims_t580“Instead of starting a race war, you started a love war,” said Melvin Graham, who lost his sister Cynthia Graham Hurd in the shooting.

“I forgive you for you actions. You are just a body being used. You didn’t understand the presence of the evil that possesses you,” added Daniel Simmons, Jr., son of Rev. Simmons. “But thank God that he gives us the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the heartbeat that pulls us to another level.”

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. days after the June 2015 mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others.

“Yes, I forgive you,” said another witness Felicia Sanders who lost her son Tywanza and her aunt Susie Jackson in the shooting. “That was the easiest thing I had to do. … But you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. May God have mercy on your soul.”

“You can’t have my joy,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister died in the shooting. “It is simply not yours to take.”

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” added Anthony Thompson, a relative of victim Myra Thompson. “But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess.”

“Your choices brought us here, but our choice–to respond with love–has kept us here,” Alana Simmons said. “We are all moving on in love and moving on in strength and nothing you can ever do will ever be able to stop that.”

Read more about the South Carolina shooting and forgiveness for the shooter:

Parents Forgive Attacker Who Severely Burned Their Daughter

The Christian Post, Indonesia – Parents of a 4-year-old girl who suffered severe burns in a Sunday terror attack on a church in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, have forgiven the accused and have said they will not even ask God to punish him.

A bomb, reportedly a Molotov cocktail, was thrown inside the Gerejamolotov-cocktail Oikumene Church compound where children were playing, killing a toddler and injuring three other infants.

Trinity Hutahaean, the 4-year-old girl, was severely wounded in the attack. The toddler’s aunt, Roina Simanjuntak, says the family has forgiven the accused.

“God teaches us to forgive and not to pay revenge,” Simanjuntak quoted the girl’s parents as saying. “I have a big hope that my family members, especially Trinity’s mother, can face this hard time. She is still in traumaindonesia-memorial after seeing what happened to her child.”

Despite tradition to the contrary, the mother did not pray to God to punish the accused, Simanjuntak added.

While the majority of the people in Indonesia are known to be tolerant and moderate, there are several extremist groups in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago have been closed over the last decade due to pressure from such groups.indonesia_map3

Read more:

The Christian Post, Indonesia: Parents of 4-Y-O Burned in Church Bombing Say ‘God Teaches Us to Forgive’ “

The Jakarta Post, Kalimantan church bomber linked to terrorist movement