Dr. Ben Carson is a famed neurosurgeon who is credited with successfully separating conjoined twins who were joined at the head. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has had the honor of speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast. He has authored six books, including Gifted Hands, an autobiography that was later made into a hit movie, and his latest release, One Nation, which will hit bookstands on May 20. He was featured in the May 2013 edition of Decision magazine.
He credits much of his accomplishments to the values instilled in him by his mother. In the spirit of honoring influential women this Mother’s Day, he took some time to speak with BGEA about the impressions his mother left on his life.
From the perspective of the world, Ben Carson’s life had a bleak outlook.
Carson’s mother, Sonya, came from a very large rural family from Tennessee. Married at 13, she moved with his father to Detroit.
When Carson was just a young boy, it was discovered that his father was a bigamist. When he was eight years old, his parents divorced, and his mother, who had a third grade education, was left to raise two boys on her own.
“Perhaps the most distinguishing thing about her is that she would never be a ‘victim.’ I never heard her complain, and she would never let us complain,” explained Carson. “ She always told us, ‘You can do everything else anybody else can do.’ She would not accept excuses, and I credit this as the reason my brother and I decided to work hard to achieve the things we wanted in life.”
Sonya Carson also made sure her family worshipped together. She and her boys were very active in their local church.
“There was a strong spiritual component where my mother was concerned. She always invoked the name of God in times or crisis, and in happy times, too. She always recognized that He was in charge and was the Ultimate Controller of everything,” Carson said.
It was really after Sonya Carson prayed and asked God for the wisdom to help her know how to raise her sons is when it dawned on her that she needed to make sure her sons knew how to read. As someone who could not read herself, she believed this would be the gateway to many opportunities.
“As I started reading about people with accomplishments, it dawned on me that the person who has the most to do with our success is ourselves—not other people, not our environment, but ourselves,” said Carson. “I began to tune out all the people who said we wouldn’t make it, and those who said that the world around us is racist. I really began to focus on making myself valuable, and the way I did that was with knowledge—mostly acquired through reading. It got to the point where if you saw me for five minutes, I was reading a book.”
It was, in fact, a book that would change Carson’s life forever.
As a 14-year-old with an anger problem, there was an incident where Carson nearly stabbed another boy with a camping knife. Fortunately, the other kid had a metal belt buckle that blocked the incision.
“He fled in terror, but I was more terrified than he. I started contemplating my life. I had turned things around academically, but I knew that with a temper like that, I’d never be a doctor,” he explained. “I cried out to the Lord and said, ‘I’ve tried to control my temper, but unless You control it, I’m pretty much doomed.’”
Carson was so shaken up by his own rage, he stayed in the bathroom—where there happened to be a Bible—for three hours. He picked it up and turned to book of Proverbs. As he read, the verses about fools and about anger flooded his soul.
God impressed upon his heart that the urge to punch someone was a sign of weakness, and he also realized his own selfishness.
“Those Scriptures taught me that when I take myself out of the center of the circle, it’s not about me. And when it’s not about me, I tend to be less angry.”
It quickly became obvious to him that God was at work in his heart. All because his mother had a vision for him—a vision that he would love reading and thirst for knowledge. That day, he knew he had a Father in his life—God Himself.
“Reading that Scripture in the aftermath of my anger is really what brought God home to my heart.”