The Triumph of Forgiveness: NJ Author Overcame Abuse, Family Dysfunction

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    Tom Campisi, publisher of tristatevoice.com, recently interviewed Dr. Akia Blandon and Jack Redmond, authors of the recently released book, Triumphant: My Journey, His Call. Below is an abridged transcript of the Zoom interview, which can be viewed below in its entirety.

    Triumphant is the amazing memoir of Dr. Blandon, who went from high school dropout to earning a doctoral degree, and, by God’s grace, overcame the challenges associated with growing up in a dysfunctional family, sexual abuse, and betrayal. She is a mother, a nurse practitioner, entrepreneur, college professor, and a dynamic speaker.

    Jack Redmond, a pastor on the staff of Christ Church, is the author or co-author of eleven books. Over the last 25 years, as a teacher, public speaker, and life coach, his career has been focused on leadership development and helping people to reach their potential.

    TOM CAMPISI: Dr. Blandon, your book opens with an account of severe childhood trauma you experienced at the age of six. Please give us some background on your childhood, and growing up in New York City.

    DR. AKIA BLANDON: Trauma started early and hard. Some of my first memories were of times when I was being abused. As we know, sexual abuse and things of that nature are not done by strangers. It’s the people who are trusted and who are known. My abuser was my babysitter’s adoptive son. My mom entrusted me to this lady who was absolutely wonderful. Even to this day, I don’t fault her. But she had a sinister son who was freely being used by the enemy. And as early as six-years old, he began to sexually abuse me. And he held that over my head as a threat to sexually abuse my younger sister if I didn’t comply. As an older sibling, you do what you do, even at that age (6) you recognize that part of your role is protector. That’s where a lot of the trauma started.

    TOM CAMPISI: And there was trauma in your family as well? Your mom was very young and you were raised by your grandmother. And your father ended up in prison.

    AB: My grandmother really was my saving grace. If it was not for her, I’m not really sure where I would be. My mom was young, and there were some challenges between her and my dad. That resulted in—what I believe—was a little resentment towards me because I look like my dad; I kind of sound like my dad. My personality, I’ve been told, is similar to my dad’s. So my grandmother jumped in and just took me and I lived with her. That helped make me into the woman that I am today.

    TC: Despite such a dysfunctional childhood, you were still able to be a strong mom and raise five children on your own. How were you able to be a godly mother?

    AB: Not having the maternal relationship that I wanted with my mom, I think it forced me to develop that relationship with my children. Making my children understand that I love them was super important…My mom and I didn’t say I love you until I was 19…So it made me want to be a better mom.

    It made me want to be a present mom. It made me want to prioritize my children, even over my own happiness…If I can fast forward to today, my mom admires the relationship I have with my children, and she has told me, “You’re a good mom and your kids really love you.”

    TC: In your book, you write about separating from your husband and moving to an apartment in New York City with your five kids?

    AB: Actually, I’ve been married twice. I got married at 16 to become an emancipated minor so that I could make my own decisions. I got married, and that lasted about a minute. I got divorced…And I ended up getting pregnant with my first son. And that’s actually how I came to Christ…Having my first child and being on my own with no family, I ended up in a (government) WIC center. There I met this random Christian woman who witnessed to me…Even though I grew up in church, I had not known the Lord. I ended up giving my life to Christ as a result of that meeting. [The Bible] says that all things work together for good…

    TC: In the book, you (the authors) use the term “curveballs” to describe life’s ongoing challenges. Jack, can you talk about the impact the writing process had on you in terms of how Dr. Akia faced these curveballs?

    JACK REDMOND: Number one, everybody has pain. Everybody has curveballs. Everybody has a hand dealt to them in life that they have to figure out. In that sense, this book is universal. For me, I literally sat there for two and a half months and cried at my keyboard. First, because of the pain Akia felt and the things she had to experience. As the father of five daughters, I can’t imagine any of my daughters, going through the things Akia had to go through. Second, it just stirred up the pain in my life—the rejections, the abandonments that I’ve gone through. These are human conditions that we all have to navigate.

    I took away two things from writing this book with Akia. One, God’s plan is bigger than anything we go through. Two, a person has to make a decision to move forward. Akia said, “I don’t care who abandoned me, who neglected me, who abused me, the dumb choices that I made in my pain. God has a purpose for me and I’m going to move forward.” That’s what she did. And that’s what this book captures.

    TC: Dr. Akia, how did you find the strength to forgive your parents and the person that sexually abused you as a child? You write about forgiveness being a process. What is that process like?

    AB: As I like to say, Tom, “It’s Jesus plus therapy, right?” It’s definitely the Lord. There’s no way I could tell any part of my story without giving glory to God. There is no way…

    Matthew 6:16 tells us that—I’m paraphrasing—if I don’t forgive you, how can I expect God to forgive me? A lot of times we walk around having been wronged and we hold these grudges that are like poison to ourselves. I have a favorite saying—that having unforgiveness is like drinking poison, but expecting the other person to die. If God, in His word, thought it was significant enough to say that I have to forgive or I won’t be forgiven, then I need to look at that seriously.

    You have to understand that people have their own [issues]…And that causes them to act or react in a different way that may be hurtful to you. Does that mean you should hold them there for forever? Absolutely not. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is freedom in letting go. There was freedom and a healing that happened when I forgave my parents that allows us to be close today.

    TC: Thank you for sharing. That’s very powerful. In the book, you talk about seeing the man who sexually abused you and telling him, “I’m amazing, the pain you caused no longer hurts.”

    AB: There was a freedom and a healing that happened when I forgave the man that sexually abused me for so long because, guess what? I ended up being his protector. [Years later, at a neighborhood event], I and my family members could have done anything to him. I stood as a wall. What greater testimony is there than the healing that God can do and what came from, ultimately, protecting the one that hurt me. It screamed to him…Forgiveness frees you, but it also screams (to others) who are watching about who God is. Being there in that moment and looking at him and being able to stand in the gap proverbially, right, to stop my uncle from hurting him, there was no pain. The physical pain was gone, the emotional pain was gone. Why? Because I did the work. Why? Because I practice forgiveness. Why? Because I walked in it. And in that moment, it was super clear to me that it no longer hurts.

    TC: Jack, in the book you and Dr. Akia use the term “The Super Bowl of Forgiveness” to describe how she forgave the man who sexually abused her. Please comment on that term.

    JR: In that moment, God did his thing, You are talking about a six-year old girl who was sexually abused by a grown man over and over again. And then they meet at a community gathering (when she is an adult) and he talks smack to her, telling her she looks good. Any human being on Planet Earth would want revenge. And she could have had revenge. Her family was there. As she says, “they were strapped and ready.” So this guy was dead. They were going to kill this guy because they knew what he did.

    She is protecting him from death—the man who molested her. It’s the Super Bowl of forgiveness because each of us have gone through things where people have done things to us—but nothing compared to what she experienced.

    Akia was set free and healed through Jesus, through therapy, and through the work. One of the big takeaways from this book is that there is work to be done to be free. That’s the story of this book. When I look at it is if this wonderful woman who overcame that kind of obstacle, anything that can be overcome. Once again, that through the power of Jesus Christ, combined with the personal commitment and unbending will that says no matter what I’ve gone through, I’m going to live out God’s purpose for my life. That’s one of the biggest takeaways from Triumphant.

    TC: As we close, Dr. Akia, I want to give you the final word. Can you talk about the epilogue in your book, which focuses on persistence, grit, and resilience?

    AB: One of the things that I have realized in my life is that resilience matters. Being able to bounce back from the pain of circumstance and situations, your choices matter. And so we don’t quit when we fall down. We quit when we don’t get back up. And so resilience says, “no matter what comes, no matter what occurs, no matter what happens, I am going to get back up.”

    I am going to continue to fight. I am going to put one more foot in front of the other. I’m going to continue to step. And I’m going to hold on and hold fast to what I believe, hold fast to my faith, hold fast to the truth that all things work together for good to them who love God. I’m going to hold fast to it. I’m going to bounce back and I’m going to be resilient in the face of every opposition because it’s in those moments that God is truly glorified in me.”

    See the complete interview here: