A murdered teenage girl's heartfelt school essay on "forgiveness" now inspires others with love and hope, as a community mourns and heals from the shock of her brutal murder.
"Holding a grudge doesn't make us strong; it makes us bitter. Forgiving doesn't make people weak; it sets people free," wrote fourteen-year-old Shykia Ward, who penned the essay entitled "Forgiveness Enlarges the Future" for an assignment submitted in October 2017 at Renfroe Middle School.
Five months after she wrote the essay, on Sunday, March 25, police said Ward was tragically stabbed to death by her own uncle at the Trinity Walk Apartments in the city of Decatur. 36-year-old Royce Alex Stewart killed Ward and her mother's boyfriend, fled, and was eventually captured, according to Decatur Police.
There is no motive for the horrific crime.
Loved ones wanted her words on forgiveness read aloud at a community vigil for her Tuesday. Thursday morning, her principal at Renfroe Middle School emailed her inspiring message to all students, faculty and teachers to share her haunting words of wisdom that now inspire and comfort those mourning her death.
"I have faith in forgiving the individuals who have treated me terribly," Shykia wrote. "But forgiving and learning to love those who hurt us in upset of the stuff they have done is one of the most powerful pieces of all. The weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the character of the strong."
Shykia's inspiring essay in its entirety can be read below:
"Forgiveness Enlarges the Future"
"Holding a grudge doesn't make us strong; it makes us bitter. Forgiving doesn't make people weak; it sets people free. I believe in forgiveness, the kind that has the ability to release someone from a position of anger or hate, to a position of peace.
It has the ability to release opportunity and joy. It has the ability to let us push ahead while never focusing on the past on forgiveness, it has the ability to hold us hostage to hurt or misery. It has the ability to abandon us hopeless, or caught in a cycle of anger and anxiety. I believe in forgiveness.
A few people don't comprehend one's ability to forgive; however, I have faith in forgiving the individuals who have treated me terribly and proceeding onward with my life. Not forgiving someone can be extremely simple, but can eventually become too much for me or anyone to deal with. I carry on with my life at the time.
"We have all accomplished some level of hurt. Regardless of whether we were abused, left down or out, lost our confidence or trust in somebody, we as a whole have left pain. Forgiveness is not about removing the past. The past can never be deleted. It isn't just missing what has happened. Once in awhile, it's helpful to remember the hurts so we don't need to continue it any more. It is not about making another person see their fault or expect that forgiveness should change their behavior.
"Forgiveness is instead about giving us the ability to accept the situation for what it is or was, giving up, moving past pain and anger, and moving into a more useful place. If I were to be in a situation like this, I would try to look at my role in the situation. I would think to myself, what could I have done differently? Am I partially responsible? If I have some responsibility and i am able to accept that responsibility, it makes it a little easier to consider this next suggestion.
"I would have empathy. I should try to see the stuff from the other person's view. Think about how they may have been feeling or what they may have been thinking. Try to consider not only how they were feeling then, but how they are also feeling now. By having empathy, we are sometimes able to understand, which makes it easier to forgive.
"Another example is having a commitment to move on. If forgiving someone was easy, everyone would do it and we'd live in a world with no past hurts. Forgiveness isn't easy and it can't always be done overnight. I think we should recognize that the amount of hurt, anger, or pain we might feel develop over time. It is likely that it is going to take time to work through those feelings so that we could come to the place where everyone can truly forgive.
"We should wish the ones who hurt us well. I can't say we truly forgive someone and wish them hurt or harm. Once we make the mindful decision to forgive someone, we have to move on. We may have to love them from a distance and wish them well in our hearts. But forgiving and learning to love those who hurt us in upset of the stuff they have done is one of the most powerful pieces of all. The weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the character of the strong. Everyone should find his or her inner strength to forgive others and discover the happiness and freedom they deserve."