Imagine being sentenced to death or life in prison. Now imagine that you didn’t commit the crime you’re accused of, that you have dozens of witnesses that support your innocence, and they’re ignored and not allowed to testify. Your reality is that you’re faced with a system that targets you, based on your race, socioeconomic class or other discriminating factor.
Don’t believe it happens? It does. More often than you know.
What opened my heart to talk about this issue? Thanks for asking…it was this book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson.
He and his organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, are on a mission to help “the most vulnerable” in our society; to free wrongly convicted men, women and children who are sentenced to capital punishment (death) or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A quote from Just Mercy, and the theme of my topic today:
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. If somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar. If somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. And because of that, there’s this basic human dignity that must be respected by law.” — Bryan Stevenson
You are not the worst thing you’ve ever done.
Do you have regrets that keep you “incarcerated?” Do you lack self-forgiveness and do these “things that you’ve done” keep you consumed with guilt? I’m guessing because you’re human, you haven’t always been honest, you’ve taken things that weren’t yours, and you’ve hurt yourself and others, emotionally or physically. These are situations…occurrences…yes, they happened, but no, they aren’t you.
You are not “what” has been done to you.
Have you experienced abandonment, abuse, or neglect? Have you been violated, ignored, hurt, or betrayed (you get the point)? Are these situations because of who you are? No.
Yet believing they are, keeps you attached to shame (“I AM something wrong.”) If you believe that you are responsible for the “bad things” that have happened to you, you have no other choice but to feel like there is something wrong with you and attach shame and blame to yourself.
You are bigger than anything you’ve done or that’s been done to you.
Staying incarcerated by circumstances is how your ego controls you by keeping you stuck in the familiar. “If they find out who I am and what I did, they will know I’m a fraud and a horrible person.” “I am responsible for what happened to me. Bad things only happen to bad people.”
You are not that thing you did.
You are not the thing that happened to you.
Whether you’re in a physical or emotional prison, you are bigger than your “circumstances.”
If you don’t let others off the hook for their mistakes, you stay on the hook with them.
When we judge and hold others responsible for our pain, we stay stuck in self-righteousness and incarcerated with them.
When we can honestly take a hard look at the things we’ve “condemned” other humans for and say, “There’s a part of me that I see in that person,” we can begin to have empathy and compassion.
As I wrote in my blog on Forgiveness, “Although forgiveness (acceptance) might help mend relationships, it’s not for the other person…it’s entirely a process to help release the negative burden of personal imprisonment.”
The truth of who you are is always speaking to you.
When you get quiet with yourself and listen, you will find that there is a vast world within you that is pure love, seeking liberation and peace. And when you find and connect with that world within you, you will create an external world where you only want love, liberation and peace for others.
What circumstance or situation keeps you in physical and/or emotional prison? Where do you project judgment, condemnation, blame, or criticism and turn your back on others because it’s too painful to witness?
Get involved and/or educated: Check out the Equal Justice Initiative. Become aware…reach toward those who need your help…be a voice for equal justice. Actually, become a needed advocate for equal rights, equal treatment, and equality.