Iyanla Vanzant: “Turn your pain into purpose and forgive your enemies”

 (This article is an update to a previous article)

Senator Collins: ‘Iyanla is a wounded warrior who brought us healing”


By Chinta Strausberg


When best selling author Iyanla Vanzant recently came to Saint Sabina she not only sold all of her books but she not only shared her painful past that included being raped by an uncle at the age of nine but also a sense of healing, a challenge for people to reach out to those violating the community and love rather than to scorn and cast them aside.

Vanzant, who autographed scores of her book, “Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through,” at times preached about life’s choices and candidly told of how she was violated beginning when she was a child and how that trauma made her the woman she is today.

“I grew up in poverty and dysfunction. I was raped at the age of nine…. My mama died. My daddy was dead. My grandmother beat me until the skin came off my back…,” Vanzant told a standing-room only audience.  She told of being taken out to the shed and beaten with sticks. Vanzant asked is it helpful to tell her life’s tragic story? “No,” she said then explained how pain can be the best prescription to a life of dysfunction.

Vanzant, who was born in Brooklyn in the back seat of a taxicab, lost her mother to breast cancer. Her father, who reportedly was emotionally divorced from his children, left them with different relatives. That is how Vanzant was raped at such a tender age. At 16, she became a mother and at the age of 21 she had three children and was married to an abusing husband.

Explaining, Vanzant said telling her difficult story is helpful to others.  “When I want to whine and cry about what I can or cannot do physically, I am reminded that I have the strength to move forward…. You have to tell your story in a way that empowers you,” she said. Vanzant challenged the mostly female audience to have a vision, “dream big” and to move forward.

“You have to have a relationship with your Creator,” said Vanzant who is a Yoruba priestess. She believes we’ve forgotten to pray. Vanzant wonders if “for the next week you refuse to say a cuss word…and pray” for those who are troublemakers.  God, she said, is missing in the equation of finding peace in he middle of chaos, confusion and crime.

“What if for the next 40-days you refuse to complain about anything, not your supervisor, your wife, your husband, the kids, your raggedy car…whatever…. Instead complaining, bless somebody…. Imagine what we could do with that energy…,” she said.

“Instead of talking about somebody else as the thought came up in your mind, you stop yourself and you bless them,” Vanzant said challenging her audience to be positive. ‘When you start connecting the dots, people, and understanding how important you are, you are carrying the energy of God. You represent God on the planet….” It doesn’t matter what race you are, she said. “There is an element of God in you” when you can look at people “despite their behavior, you see God in them.”

Vanzant said if you lock up a person because of bad behavior “it’s not going to heal his heart.” She referred to Trayvon Martin who was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. “He didn’t shoot Trayvon because of bad behavior. He shot Trayvon because of what he holds in his heart,” she stated.

“What if we just start praying on him and God lift him, bless him, he’ll throw his own damn court. “My father’s mother grew up on a reservation,” recalled Vanzant. “She was a squaw. Native American women don’t even have any voices today.  You don’t see them. You don’t hear them; so regardless of race, regardless of where we come from. Just imagine what our ancestors went through so that we could have the privileges that we complain about today.”

Vanzant’s message was to stop complaining, find your purpose, learn and draw strength from your past pains, to embrace life to the fullest and to move forward.

And, that is what Vanzant did having been a domestic violence victim, abused as a child and unloved by both her parents. Yes, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York and later from the City University of New York law School at Queens College. She never gave up on herself and learned to draw strength from her past pains. “Get to know how important you are,” said Vanzant.

Agreeing was Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) who said Vanzant brought a “healing message” to Chicago. “I see her as a wounded warrior in that she fought many battles and that she publicly shares some of her wounds and hurts, but she’s in the process and on a journey of healing. She pulls us along with us because she speaks such words of encouragement, inspiration, joy and peace. You can only get that calm and peace when you have a relationship with God because God is love and God is peace.

Having heard Vanzant speak before, Collins said, “Her gift has flourished possibly through the lost of her daughter which took her to a whole other level.  I appreciate her even more because her words are interwoven with the gospel, which is the good news. She speaks of God and how important it is to have a relationship with him. She brings the good news of what it means to have a relationship with God,” said Collins.

Commenting on Vanzant’s remarks involving the murder of 17-year-old unarmed Trayvon Martin, Collins said her message was that  “maybe there wouldn’t have been a Trayvon if we had been there with Amadou Diallo (the 23-year-old Guinean who was shot 41 times by four white offers in New York City), or others” who were killed in this manner.

Saying it doesn’t matter what race the child is who is killed, Collins added, “We should be just as enraged when blacks kill blacks. She is calling us to arms to be more aware. It is not just the leaders that have to move us forward. We in our own communities, in our own neighborhoods and on our blocks have to take ownership and reclaim our communities and our children.”

Referring to Vanzant’s saying when you see young men who are probably wounded and hurting themselves including those who may be perpetrating crimes against their own people “because of the lack of esteem and self-respect,” Collins said, “I thought it was interesting when she said to reach out to them and say, ‘God bless you. I love you.’  The love is what is missing in this community. Do we love ourselves enough to save our children or confront those who continue to harm and bring hurt and deny a hurting people a healing,” the senator said.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.