Leymah Gbowee was born in Liberia in 1972. In 1989, the country broke into war. She was forced to flee the country with her family but later returned to assist others. She was a trauma counselor and a leader in many organizations such as Women in Peacebuilding Network and Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She later founded Women Peace and Security Network-Africa. Her activism earned her many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
On October 1st, she came to Lincoln and gave the presentation “Mighty Be Our Powers: Building Women, Building Peace”. I thought the talk seemed interesting but to be completely honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t need to for a class. To say that I’m glad I attended is an understatement. Leymah Gbowee’s speech was wonderful. It was moving and informative. She talked about the horrible things that she and other women went through during the war and how they overcame it. Even when discussing negative events, her words were filled with hope.
At the end of her presentation, she gave the audience the opportunity to submit questions. All of the questions were great, and she had great answers, but the very last question was the one that stood out to me the most. The question was about forgiveness and how she isn’t angry about everything she and other Liberians were put through because of the war.
To help answer the question, she gave a demonstration. She had two volunteers come up on stage. One represented the victim and the other the instigator. She had them each reach out one arm and tied them together with a cloth. The cloth represented the burden that’s present with resentment. When the issue is unsolved, both individuals are tied together. They are mentally stuck in each other’s lives and are therefore not able to go their separate ways. When the instigator confronts the victim about the situation and tries to solve it, but the victim does not forgive, the instigator is then free. Gbowee untied the cloth from the instigator’s arm and it was left tied to the victim. In this case, the victim was left with the burden because they chose not to forgive. When the victim forgives, the burden is then lifted from them. She then untied the cloth from their arm.
I never really thought about forgiveness in this way. I would usually see it as “Do they deserve my forgiveness?” This made me realize that you forgive for yourself, so you can heal and move on. It’s not always for the other person.