Chris Singleton receives mail from all corners of the world. Much of it revolves around the same topic: forgiveness.
When Dylann Roof killed nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church in June 2015, Singleton’s mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was among them.
He forgave the white supremacist gunman for taking his mother’s life, and talks about the process he went through to be able the reach that point in public speaking engagements, including one he did Monday at Judson University in Elgin.
“My choice was forgiveness,” said Singleton, who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2017 and plays for their Class A minor league team, the South Bend Cubs. “I’m only 22 years old, I’m young. But I know the best choice my life will ever have is forgiving Dylann Roof.”
Speaking to the hundreds who gathered to hear his story, he urged the audience to remember “love is always stronger than hate,” a message he first shared the day after his mother’s murder.
That day, Singleton spoke to his college baseball teammates and community at Charleston Southern University and announced he had forgiven Roof. The speech was so powerful that it soon when viral online.
The loss of his mother taught the Cubs prospect that one cannot control everything in life, a philosophy he tries to remember personally and professionally, Singleton said. And particularly when it comes to overcoming adversity or personal trauma, that — and the power of his Christian faith and prayer — is where he draws strength, he said.
In the case of his mother’s death, he had to accept that she was gone and her killer was motivated and controlled by his white supremacist views, he said. In order to heal, he had to reach a point of forgiveness, Singleton said.
Much of the mail he’s received in the last few years comes from strangers who can’t understand how forgiveness came so quickly to him.
“You don’t always forgive that other person, sometimes you forgive for yourself,” Singleton said. “I guarantee one of you in here are struggling to forgive. Somebody went through something and they’ve been holding that grudge their whole life. That anxiety and that hatred and that burden that’s constantly on their shoulders will be lifted off (by forgiving).”
Chris Lash, director of Judson’s university ministries, said Singleton’s words struck a chord with him. As a pastor, Lash said it’s easy to tell someone to forgive but it’s a difficult thing to achieve.
When asked if he could act like Singleton were he in a similar situation, Lash said it would be difficult. “I believe forgiveness is an ongoing action. I’d hope I have that ability, part of me doubts I could,” he said.