“I don’t think I can make it through this,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
“If you keep telling yourself that, you won’t,” I answered. “Your reality is determined by your ‘self talk’. If you keep telling yourself you’re gonna fail, that someone’s gonna hurt you, that vision will come true. If you tell yourself you’ll succeed, that you’ll be safe while you’re locked up, then that will happen. It’s your choice.”
For someone locked up behind bars, or held captive in a bad relationship, or stuck in a dead-end job, it’s very easy to believe that you have no choice in the matter. But you do—even if you’re not getting out of prison, or dumping your psycho spouse, or moving on to the job of your dreams. Yet.
One of the great lessons of my life was when Derek King told me he’d discovered that a person can be free, even if (as Derek was) you’re being held in one of the most repressive youth prisons in America and being subjected to relentless daily torture. Derek served out the eight years of his confinement as a “free man” and was never broken by the guards or owned by the gangs. He had to fight a few times, but he was never seriously injured or raped. In fact, it was he (by his own description a “skinny little guy with glasses”) who was feared and respected in his facility.
I am putting my caller together with Derek by mail. It is easy enough for me to spout off these platitudes from the far remove of my isolated desert retreat, but Derek has lived out and tested these ideas and proved their efficacy.
Last night I stumbled across this quote by the novelist Arthur Joyce Carey (1888-1957). I think it perfectly expresses the challenges of the human experience: “The truth is that life is hard and dangerous; that he who seeks his own happiness does not find it; that he who is weak must suffer; that he who demands love will be disappointed; that he who is greedy will not be fed; that he who seeks peace will find strife; that truth is only for the brave; that joy is only for him who is not afraid to be alone; that life is only for the one who is not afraid to die.”
Have you ever met a person who is so fearful and timid that your first impulse is to slap them on the side of the head? It is almost as if they are inviting an aggressive reaction. You can smell their fright and it inspires neither respect or pity. If they are an anvil and you are a hammer, there seems to be only one natural thing to do.
Thankfully most of us exercise restraint and choose a kinder and more enlightened path. But predators are not like us. They react instinctively to the smell of blood. The world is full of predators who live for prey.
Those of us who are actively involved in The Redemption Project are actively collaborating about the best ways to support our kids and help them survive unthinkable challenges. This morning Matt sent me a copy of a letter he had written to one of the kids. In it was a quote which not only shows we’re on the same page with our advice, but provides a perfect close for this post:
“Know that it’s your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny.” ~Unknown
Groove of the Day