Saturday, February 13, 2010

#23 Strength of Prison Love (RETRO)

The Strength of Prison Love

Note guys that I’m not talking about just “love” but “prison love”. I want to discuss for a few moments about the levels of strength that some may have when dealing with a loved one in prison.

I am sharing this for a number of reasons, one being that I read a comment from a mom who seems to be at the end of her rope. It is easy for me to sit here and blog about how you can do this or that, but in each individual’s situation, it can be far more easier said than done.

I read a comment of a mom who might be feeling very down right now, and may not see the true need to support a loved one in prison if they are not going to change. But this can easily be applied to any other situation or person.

This can apply to a husband or boyfriend in prison, it can apply to a pen pal in prison, it can apply to an ex felon… and it can just as easily apply to YOU.

(what, did you think this was just a one-way street?)

What is the strength of your prison love?

To really get on the same understanding on this, let’s agree to see this in something we can all understand…let’s use the three houses of the fairy tale, “Three Little Pigs”.

We all know the story, but I want you to focus on the three houses that the wolf in the story tried to blow down…the straw hut, the wooden house and the brick home. As you all know, the wolf was able to blow down the first two, but not able to blow down the brick home.

Now, let’s apply some prison issues here. How strong is your prison love, or to put it another way, how strong is your love when it comes to the trials and tribulations involving prison issues?

That means different things to different people. In the case of the mother I was talking about, it could be asked how much did she REALLY love her son. To an inmate in prison, it could apply to how much he really wants to change. To me personally, it could mean how dedicated am I to write on prison issues after all my trials.

Where do you put YOUR love? I know everybody wants to THINK they have “brick” love, but that would not be accurate. The actual strength is not known until you have it TESTED.

I mean, think about it. The first pig built his hut out of straw. STRAW! It is apparent that the pig felt that the home was strong enough to protect him from some things. But when the real trouble came (the wolf) the hut was no match for the problem, and easily fell apart like a house of cards in a wind tunnel. That pig would have never built that hut unless he honestly thought it could provide some protection…but he was only prepared for the most minimal of troubles.

Lots of people are like that when it comes to prison issues.

Many people are hoping that all prison is for their loved one is this: the go to their cell and live there and not get in any trouble while they are in prison, and when they finish their incarceration, they come out a much better person and never get in trouble again.

Come on guys, what made you think life was THAT easy?

We are talking about some of the most negative places in the country, guys surrounded by the menaces of society, around them every hour of every day for YEARS. Prison is a place of condemnation, how do you expect them to come out of this smelling like a rose?

“Then what’s the point of encouraging them?”

The point is to give that person something positive to focus on, to give him a fighting chance to change. I will never understand how some people think that “tough love” or ignoring the inmate until they get out is helpful to them. I’ll be honest, if I had somebody do that to me while I was in prison, struggling to make sense of my life, I would NOT want that person near me when I got out. I don’t want some self-righteous idiot thinking that I wasn’t worth talking to while I was in prison, but the moment I got out they counted me “equal”.

There is no love in that. None.

I would like to compare the “straw hut” love to people who may indeed love someone who is in prison, but when the first trials come that are outside of the minimum problems of prison, they give up on them. You wouldn’t be reading my blogs or posts or going online to find answers unless you did care about that person. But many give up when the first signs of trouble come, because they think the problems are too much for them to bear, or they blame the inmate for “screwing up”.

That is tough to say to people, but I am not directing this at anyone. Lots of times people just don’t want to be bothered with prison stuff, so when the slightest problem comes, they either fold up like a lawn chair or give up. This does not mean they don’t love that person…it just means they don’t love them enough to believe in them.

Inmates can have the same kinda “straw hut” love. Guys sit in prison hoping the their loved ones will have mercy on them, and support them, but the moment they don’t get a card or some money in a week or so, they start giving up on them. Sadly, I have been there. I felt really down when I was expecting some money from my family, and didn’t get it. It wasn’t that I was mad, because I KNEW they had bills to pay, and I knew they said they would send it, but when I didn’t get it when I wanted it, I started getting depressed. I started thinking maybe they don’t love me anymore, and things started to spiral downward….

Now note, none of my thinking was true or accurate, it was me assuming things that were not true, but it was still affecting me.

I realized how foolish I was when I finally got the money, and in the card my brother told me how they had some bills to pay and apologized for the delay. I knew they were right, but when you are surrounded by negativity all the time, it can affect your thinking.

The “straw hut” love will stand only in the very best of circumstances…and how many of you have a loved one in prison in THOSE circumstances? Prison itself is a trial, a place of condemnation, both physically, mentally and spiritually. That alone is enough to topple the prison love of many people, which is why so many look for help and understanding.

But if you can stand strong, then it could upgrade you to the next step…

“Wooden house” love.

We all know that a wooden house is stronger in support than a straw hut, such is the same with prison love. A person in this situation has fully accepted that their loved one is in prison and has a period of time they must do. They are no longer struggling with the initial shocks of prison. Many are not afraid to talk about it, and some are in positions to offer support to others (mainly those in “straw hut” situations).

But we know from the fairy tale that the wooden house was blown away too, meaning it too was not strong enough for some levels of trials and tribulations. How does that compare to prison issues?

To me, this situation is where many people slip, in that they get overly frustrated in the problems of prison, or want to “give up” on their loved one….

Kinda odd, isn’t it… to GIVE UP on a LOVED ONE? How ironic is that?

This is kinda where the limits of love are tested, and lots of us fall down. You see, if you really love someone, you NEVER give up on them. But often times we do because that person is not living up to OUR standards.

“Well you don’t know my son! He keeps screwing up!”

Granted I don’t know him…and as one guy who can admit I have screwed up many times, I am certainly glad my mom has not given up on me. Or, on a grander scale, I am glad God has not kicked me out of His Love.

You see folks, the “wooden house” love is indeed strong, much stronger than “straw hut” love, but wood breaks if enough pressure is put on it. A man or woman can break a wooden board if they are strong enough. You don’t need a lot of artificial help to break wood.

Ironically, it is our lack of mercy and grace that also topples these wooden houses. Again, I am saying the love was not there, I am saying that when it really got hot, we backed away and gave up.

If you son did time in prison, and got out and screwed up, do you throw him away? See, this is where lots of so called “Christians” will say, “give him to the Lord”… yeah right. Throw him to God when you give up on him.

“What am I supposed to do? He won’t change!”

How do YOU know that? How many people have walked on this earth without a sin? How can you say that your own SON or DAUGHTER has no place in your heart because they are not perfect? How many times should a person sin before they are no longer forgivable? Once? Twice? Three times? Who has that number?


Look, there are many guys I have known that would break the law again if given the chance. But I also know that some guys do it because they have no other venues. That does not justify it at all, but it is still there. And let’s add this to the situation… if you are so upset at them, what did YOU do to help change it?

See, some people like to only share one side of the problem. It’s easy to point the finger at an inmate and say “he said he would do this and that, but he never did, so I just gave up on him”. That’s nice and pretty, because it makes you look like a saint. But I don’t have to know you to say this….you are not perfect either.

Some people put so much pressure on ex felons that it makes their life so hard to adjust. Some parents are so hard on their sons and daughters that it constricts them from trying to change. There is a fine line in being a supporting parent or wife or girlfriend, and being a taskmaster.

Those in “wooden houses” understand a lot of the trials of prison and what a loved one may be going through, but often times they give up when their loved ones continue to fall. It’s funny because we claim to be a forgiving country, when we really are not. We like to remind you of your failures, rather than your successes.

I went through this “wooden house” situation myself with a juvenile that I helped while I was in county jail. Many of you know that story so I won’t repeat it, but I tried many times to help him, and each time he seemed to fail. He has probably been in jail about 10 times, maybe more, and more than once I felt that he was not worth bothering with.

But deep inside, I saw that he was a good kid (about 17) but just needed somebody to believe in him. Many times I felt that he wasn’t worth my time, and more than once I resolved to just give up on him. But it seemed like when I made those resolutions, a month or so later he would come by to talk.

He had plans, he had goals, but he just didn’t know how they were going to happen. Maybe I had no answers, but it is also possible that he felt that if he just talked with me, and find something positive to hold on to, maybe he could make it.

I could blog for 200 pages about me and him over the last several years, but just last week I was with another friend as we went to a Taco Bell. I walked in and saw him working back there… I cannot tell you how much joy I felt to see that he had a job.

I think he’s on his way now… if he can just hang in there.

Again, you’d have to know more of that situation to fully understand what I am saying, but what I wanted to show was that it is easy to give up on somebody when the fall down once or twice…much easier to give up on somebody when they fall more than that. But is that really love?

It can’t be.

Love does not have to be so absolute that you are never phased by problems, but love is about hanging in there with an inmate because you love them. Don’t you have someone in prison you love, someone you care about? If so, why would you want to see the negatives of them, when you can look for something positive?

Most people who fail under the “wooden house” are those who let the human flaws of a loved one become greater than the love you have for them. By no means am I perfect, no where even close, and I certainly am not one of the top 100,000 in the most faithful, but I have a place, and I know there are people who care about me. For that reason, I try to give you my best, because I believe love is shown when a person does not give up on another.

Too many times in my blogs I have fallen, and some of you know that all too well. I just felt that there wasn’t enough people emailing me or supporting my writings. Often times I felt that I was beating my head against a prison wall, and the readers were only checking me out for entertainment purposes. (although I do try to write with some angles of entertainment).

More than once I stopped blogging and said to myself, “it’s not worth it, nobody really cares and what’s the point?” I have walked away from prison writing only to come back later and pick up the pieces and continue to write. Why? Because somewhere deep inside of me, I do care. My wooden house fell many times, and I kept rebuilding it only to fall again….

Which proves something….you don’t have to have perfect love to not give up. You just have to care. It’s ok for a mom to say today that she gave up on her son or daughter in prison….if she ultimately picks her child back up.

Now this isn’t what the fairy tale talked about. When that pig got that wooden house blown apart, it was over for that pig. But this does not have to be the way for you. See some of you was thinking I was going to say that the brick home was the representative of perfect prison love….but that isn’t always true.

Love is never giving up, so technically even the straw hut prison love has hope. A mom can fall apart once her child goes to prison…but that does not mean she gives up. A girlfriend can have her boyfriend do time, get out and leave her, but that does not mean she has given up on her life. A wife can have a husband do time, get out and go back to prison. She might give up on him now, but in time, she may remember how much she loved him.

In that way, you never truly give up…if you never give up.

The “brick home” prison love is one where the person has learned from the previous two, and can stand more firm in supporting a loved one in prison. See, you can break a piece of wood with your human strength, but try breaking a brick….good luck in that. It takes something extraordinary to do that. In prison terms, this means that those in “brick home” love can endure the basics of prison that their loved one goes through, and is even willing to endure the greater problems of their loved one (within reason). But that does not mean they can stand up to every problem without blemish.

Even the strongest homes can be tested by severe weather. But that does not mean you give up. These are the people that know that things can get better. It does not mean they are dancing in the streets because their loved one got put in the hole for having some drugs. It does not mean they are singing songs of praise when their son did 10 years in prison, only to be arrested and sent back for probation violation.

It just means they are not giving up on their loved one.

It may be tough, very tough, but the strength of love is defined when you decide to find the positives instead of embracing the negatives. If you spend more time talking about the problems of your loved one, you are not building a strong house. Lots of you have loved ones that have a list a mile long of their faults…why do you focus so much energy on negatives when you can start finding ways to be positive and be encouraging.

“Because it doesn’t work!”

Well, it doesn’t work because you set a short time limit on it. Many people think that if their loved one in prison acts perfect and never gets in any more trouble ever, then I will love them and support them. That is unreasonable. Many wait for the inmate to be perfect before they love them. That is unreasonable. Many of you give your loved ones a week, or a month or 6 months, and if YOU don’t see the change the way YOU want, then you give up.

Try growing flowers like that and see how disappointed you will be. Plant some seeds and demand those seeds to come up by the end of the week, and see how quickly you will be disappointed.

Being encouraging to a loved one in prison takes time, not a time limit. Some people don’t believe in support because they don’t think it works…and if that is what you believe, I promise you, it won’t work…for you.

The strength of your prison love isn’t in what you simply say it is, it is defined when you have the trials and tribulations. Nobody wants it, but it can’t be avoided. But that does not mean it has to beat you. It does not have to topple your house over…but EVEN IF IT DID, you can get back up and rebuild. No, that’s not what happened in the fairy tale, but we’re not talking about fantasy.

We’re talking about reality.

If you really feel that you want to give up on someone you love that is in prison, back off for awhile. Sometimes we speak from frustration and say things we may not mean. I have been there more than once. If you have a loved one that does not seem to want to change, back off for awhile and remember why that person is in your heart. After all YOU put that person in your heart, which means there is some value in him or her. If you need to, back off and pray about it, but don’t throw that person away like some used up paper.

It is possible that you may be the last person that inmate is believing in to help them get through this. Compassion is a very powerful helper in rehabilitation, and without it, a man or woman in prison will have a very difficult time making it.

So, where’s your prison love strength? No matter which one of the three you chose, you still have every opportunity to strengthen it by simply continuing to not give up on that loved one. I know it’s not easy, but somebody is counting on you to just be there for them…can you do that?

No comments:

Post a Comment