Elizabeth Smart may always be known as the girl who was kidnapped on June 2, 2002, but one thing she will not be known as, is a victim.
The now-30-year-old who was taken from her home when she was 14, recently opened up about the powerful advice her mom gave her the morning after she was rescued.
Smart says she’d always listened to her mother’s advice, but on this particular morning, her mom’s words became the single best piece of advice she’d ever given.
“They have stollen nine months of your life away from you that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy, is to move forward with your life, to do all the things you want to do. Because by feeling sorry for yourself, by holding onto the past, by reliving it, that’s only allowing them to steal more of your life away from you. And they don’t deserve that, they don’t deserve a single second more. So you need to be happy and you need to move on with your life.”
Those are some powerful kick-in-the-pants kind of words from any mom. But to know what Elizabeth Smart went through, and to know the extent of trauma she endured, not only does it take a strong teenage girl to hear something like that, but it takes one STRONG mama to speak that kind of truth into your hurting child’s life.
Finding TRUE Freedom
When the final day of trial for her captors came along, Smart realized she had, in fact, taken her mom’s advice when the sheer sight of Brian Mitchell did not make her fearful, or anxious.
“He had no power over me anymore,” Smart says. “And I remember how empowering that felt to me.”
That empowerment radiated the courtroom that morning, as one of her captors was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Smart says she’s realized that forgiveness is not for the other person, but for yourself.
“Bad things do happen, but that doesn’t mean they need to define us or destroy our life.” She continues, “what defines you is how you react, and the decisions you make.”
In choosing joy, and finding happiness after trauma, Smart has gone on to get married, to have a family, and to be a powerful advocate for all victims.
Her voice has not been silenced by the evil that was done to her. And even in the wake of trial and discomfort, Smart chooses happiness and advocacy over shame and self-deprecation.