Wednesday, June 10, 2009


When I leave the prison and the incarcerated women I work with there, I usually find that for an hour or so I ponder the concept of personal freedom and what that means. 

Tonight I left the prison with a full heart and awed by seeing one of the ladies embrace her own personal freedom (of which there is next to none in prison) through practicing self-forgiveness. 

At 16 years of age, she committed and was imprisoned for a crime that was, without reservation, I can say was appalling. Eighteen years later, she is 34. She is always peppy; she likes to talk but it's usually about superficial things; she has boundless energy. In our group monthly meetings which involve a public audience, she has never shared any intimate details about who she is, what she thinks, her incarceration, her crime, her future. Everything has been very surface. Until tonight.

Tonight, with 8 of our guests in the room (all with a grandmotherly demeanor), this young woman got up and started the program off by sharing her life with us, her poor judgement, how her crime made her "a mother's worst nightmare", how there was cost and that cost was a human life.  I have heard this woman present to public groups at least 20 times and never had she spoken so frankly, so much from the heart that your own heart felt it.  She surprised herself, and therefore all of us, when her own voice cracked and her lips tightened and she fought to not cry.

What struck me was that I was the most fortunate person in the world to be in the company of this woman at that very witness her assuming accountability for her past actions, but at the same time watching her crack open the door to experience the freedom that accompanies self-forgiveness.By sharing the dark side of herself with us--with herself--she inched closer to the light.  Isn't that true though? The more we own up to those things - large or small - that we have caused or fostered, the more we take responsibility for and accept those things we've done, said, thought....then, the more we allow ourselves the opportunity to forgive ourselves.  And while self-forgiveness doesn't mean that the slate of the past is wiped clean, it does give us a cleaner slate on which we write the future.

Wish you had all been there. 

1 comment:

  1. Powerful stuff. Working in a prison environment takes a lot of strength -- something I don't know if I could do. I bow to you.

    The key question I have for you after your experience with this prisoner is: Have you forgiven yourself? I hope so, my friend.