As one grows older, forgiveness is not always easy. Most times, it’is more important for the culprit than it is the victim.
Not for Brian Banks.
He needed to forgive his accuser. It was crucial for his sanity. It was crucial for his livelihood in prison. It was crucial for his ability to move forward.
During a five-year prison stay, Banks woke up in a cell one morning and knew forgiveness was in order.
"I remember just looking out of the window — this small, little slit and thinking to myself that I have this anger in me," Banks recalled. "I have this rage in me. I have this bitterness. I want people to be held responsible for the things that I’d been through.
"Every negative emotion that was inside of me I had it at one point in time and then that day I realized that this anger that I had, this aggression that I had toward these people, that they didn’t even know and, more than likely, they didn’t even care.
"At the end of the day, I found myself killing me. I was eating myself alive with this anger, with this rage and I made a decision that I will no longer allow this to affect me. From this day I will no longer allow this to dictate the future of my life."
While others his age were graduating from high school, celebrating their 18th birthdays, going off to college, turning 21 years old and heading to Las Vegas to begin new parts of their adulthood, Banks missed all of that.
As he puts it, the fundamental stages of adulthood, his 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays were all spent behind bars.
From this day I will no longer allow this to dictate the future of my life.
After he was released, he spent five more years on house arrest — the result of a wrongful conviction on rape and kidnapping charges the summer prior to his senior year at Long Beach Poly High School in 2002.
It wasn’t until Banks was able to get his accuser to recant her original accusation on tape, thanks to a private investigator and hidden cameras, that Banks was able to get the evidence he needed to be able to overturn his conviction.
Exonerated in May 2012, thanks to his accuser’s confession and help from the California Innocence Project, Banks’ story continues to be one of forgiveness.
When he makes speaking engagements, he talks about forgiveness.
"(The) biggest impact (I have on people) is the fact that (I have) no bitterness or anger from my experience," Banks said.
Since being exonerated, his story has been told worldwide. His dreams of playing professional football came to fruition. Banks was with the Atlanta Falcons for three games in the preseason before being let go in the team’s final cuts.
People want to hear his story. He wears a shirt with the inscription "XONR8" on his chest. It opens up doors for him to further tell his story. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be done with football. While he continues to train to make another run toward a career in pro football, Banks is working with the California Innocence Project in its work with the California Twelve — 12 people they believe to be wrongfully behind bars who’s only way out of jail is to be granted clemency by the governor of California.
Just as he was helped, he wants to help.
"It’s bigger than me and I just want to do my due diligence and give back," Banks said.
No malice. No ill will. Just desire to give back. And a heart to forgive.