When a media company in Chicago aggressively recruited Wil LaVeist in 2006, he left a coveted newspaper columnist job that he loved, and moved his family. The new position held out the promise of benefiting the family and advancing LaVeist's career. He threw himself and his then 15 years of journalism experience into attempting to create the company's first Internet publishing division. However, six months later, with no performance review or warning, LaVeist's newly-hired boss handed him a separation agreement to sign.
"I was fired cold-blooded style from a company that claimed a family-oriented reputation," LaVeist said. "As I watched [my supervisor] mouth words, thoughts raged in my head. I wandered off to … the streets of Brooklyn, New York [where he grew up], to a time I would have dealt with a punk move like this by using my fist, a blade, or a gun."
However, an inner voice penetrated LaVeist's outrage, reminding him that he was a professional, a family man (he was married with three teens), and a new creation in Christ.
In Fired Up, LaVeist describes his struggle to follow the example of the biblical Joseph. Without sentimentality or bitterness, he tells of the steps he took to trust that God was molding injustice into something redemptive in his life, something that could be shared with others as they try to overcome their own crises.
Joseph's words from Genesis 50:19-20 form a refrain that runs through LaVeist's book, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to … save many people."
As LaVeist navigated the situation caused by those who betrayed him, he went through a process of four steps:
- Reach out to wise people who love you – your family, friends, church leaders, and professional counselors. LaVeist confided in older siblings, his pastors, and his peers at The DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, a faith-based leadership development program for people engaged in urban youth ministry that his pastor in Chicago Heights (Illinois) enrolled him in. LaVeist now attends Calvary Community Church in Hampton, Virginia.
- Assess the present difficult situation by reflecting on your past, and planning for the future. At first, LaVeist was frustrated by awaking at 3 o'clock every morning. Once he discerned that God was calling him to reflect and write about his parents' contribution to his life; Brooklyn's Black residents who made the world a richer, more human place; teachers and others who had encouraged him, the insomnia became a gift.
- Allow feelings to flow. "We cheat ourselves when we wear the mask, denying our true emotions," LaVeist writes. "Being honest about our doubts can fuel our faith." Yet, he says that while emotional honesty is necessary and healing, we cannot wallow in our misery and despair forever. In LaVeist's words, "I got stuck and soaked in anger. I nearly drowned in it. Then, finally, I had a breakthrough, learning that forgiveness, the fourth and final step of acceptance, was vital for me to emerge truly free …"
- Forgiveness is necessary to move on successfully. "Studying Joseph's story during my crisis helped me to see my way clear," LaVeist writes. "Particularly it helped me to see the importance of forgiveness." LaVeist defines forgiveness as a process "to free the offender of what is owed to you," a gift presented without the need of getting something in return. "It is not a natural emotional response, but a rational logical choice according to your free will that taps into the supernatural … Forgiveness is actually about obedience to God," LaVeist writes.
LaVeist sees Joseph in the Genesis account as a foreshadowing of Jesus, someone rejected by his own people and embraced by foreigners. "It teaches that bigotry destroys the perpetrators perhaps more than the victims," he writes. "Anger tortures the soul of a bigot."
The over-arching truth of Joseph's story is that "true blessings and values come from God alone, not your career status, or family ties," LaVeist writes.
In 2011, four years after being "fired up," LaVeist joined Mennonite Mission Network as managing editor for multimedia. Order Fired Up through Better World Books, or contact LaVeist at www.willaveist.com.