You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

~ Maya Angelou from Still I Rise

As a child, Maya Angelou was the victim of a brutal assault. After she testified against her abuser, an angry mob hunted him down and beat him to death. Too young to make sense of what had happened, Angelou blamed herself.  “My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him,” Angelou recalled, “so I stopped speaking for almost six years.”

Ms. Bertha Flowers, a family friend who had discovered Angelou’s fondness for books, reached out to her. Flowers lovingly but firmly encouraged Angelou to end her self-imposed silence. She shared her library with Angelou on the condition that the young girl would read aloud all of the books she borrowed.

Angelou accepted the bargain and, with the prodding of Ms. Flowers, she regained her voice.
However, Angelou also had to regain her spirit. This required the difficult and courageous choice to forgive, and by making it Angelou discovered the strength to move on.

“Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself,” Angelou attested. “It’s not for the other person. I released the man from my care. I don’t drag him around by not forgiving him. You must forgive. It’s for your own sake, to rid yourself of that weight.”

Angelou would go on to become one the world’s most celebrated poets, her soulful words providing inspiration to thousands of readers. But the most moving, most powerful image she left behind is not found in the words she put on paper but rather in the bravely optimistic way she authored her life.

Maya Angelou’s example teaches us that optimism is far more than a naïve faith in tomorrow. It’s an attitude birthed by a series of tough choices.

Optimism comes from choosing not be the victim of unfairness.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

~ Maya Angelou

Optimism comes from choosing to forgive those who have wronged you.

“We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate — thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising.”

~ Maya Angelou

Optimism comes from choosing to change your perspective on life.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

~ Maya Angelou

Thought to Ponder

How have you learned to be optimistic in the face of challenging life circumstances?

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