Today’s ESSENCE TALK deals with a very sensitive and important topic for me. I was blessed to read about this topic as it’s one that I daily encounter. It comes from the March 2012 edition. It’s an article called “How to bounce back from betrayal”, which comes from the book “Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven” by Bishop T;D. Jakes. The Bishop’s words were wise and powerful, to say the least, and they hold an abundance of lessons.
This article dealt with 3 main things:
1) Not letting bitterness take root
2) Forgiveness (of others and yourself)
3) Healing on the above 2 issues and moving forward As a prisoner (since 1996) I have faced a mass of bitterness, rage, doubt and repeated mistakes. However, I’m proud to say, I’ve never been content with failure or low morale. I have been blessed enough to mature- mentally and spiritually- and have carried a desire to improve myself in mind, body and soul. That’s not to say the trip has been easy or even will be. I’m glad to say that Bishop T.D; Jake’s words act as a light in shinning down this dark road I’m on.
It’s amazing how the Bishop describes the negative things that take root in our lives (and can poison us) as “weeds”. Weeds reach up in gardens and strangle out the beauty and nutrients flowing n it. And there’s no better way to describe prison. Prison is like a garden with all different forms of seeds in it- each with a potential to sprout up- but have been overcome by weeds. In this garden some items do grow, while other do perish. Through neglect he weeds sprout. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Through my incarceration period I have faced every piece of rage, bitterness, error and doubt. As a death row prisoner (formerly) we were portrayed as the worse of the worse- unredeemable. Many people knew better and they displayed such by reaching out to death row inmates. And it was that single act which changed my life. It was the act of compassion. Although compassion is defined as “sympathy, pity, sympathetic, merciful”, there is an element of forgiveness in there too, because to forgive is to grant a pardon. When people can look past where you are, your circumstances, and still treat you with love and respect like a human being, son or friend, which is a force which you cannot resist changing for. In compassion is a greater understanding to humanity, and when you are touched by compassion you are touched in the most divine way.
Part of the bitterness that was stuck inside me was not just because of the delinquency that existed within me. If you look at the world delinquency you’ll see that it doesn’t just mean a person committing crime, but it is “one who fails to perform a duty or to fill an obligation”. That is one of the most horrible feelings in the world.
So, my journey has been one of forgiving myself before I could forgive others. The Bishop details how this inner bitterness will lead to sure disaster. As the Bishop describes it: “it feels like the grief will drown us, smother us, choke us with its unspeakable immensity.” There is no one recipe on how to release yourself from such grief as a prisoner, but all prisoners must understand that there is a way. As the Bishop says: “The grief can be like an antiseptic that cleanses and purifies the contamination that has infiltrated the depths of our heart.”
Regardless of your religion, race or creed there is a way to overcome your oppressors and touch the lives of others. It begins with letting go of the bitterness (FIRST) then learning how to reach other. The latter is no simpler a task than he former. Learning how to reach people that are different than you, worse or better than you is a task. But, human advancement is always made through building bridges and not dropping bombs.
One of the things that I daily suffer from is anger. I’m angry at the system being so severe on me and not allowing me a second chance. The reality of the matter is (which I had to come to grips with) anger was getting me no where. The Bishop said it in a way that I’ve never heard it before, though at some point I felt it delivered upon me: “Anger held is not love replaced. The reality is that love is stronger than death.”
What I must continue to do is turn my anger into love and let my love be reflect into my work, onto those that love me and up to God that has blessed me. As the Bishop said- I must “move from incarcerating MYSELF to rehabilitating myself.” Because I’m living for something and when I reach my goal there must be no anger trailing me. That needs to be left behind with the shackles and handcuffs. For as Bro. Jakes explains:“If you allow an offense to have free reign, it will eat up opportunities you didn’t even know were waiting just beyond the test.”So, instead of letting the offense have free reign, I’m going to let the reins go of the offense.
I’m far from being the person I’m meant to be, but I’ve come a long way from the person I used to be. I’m still learning who I should and should not be. I’m also learning to discern dead weight from good weight. For those around me that don’t want to grow, they must be treated as dead weight and let go to the wayside (lest I drown with them). The good weight- the life preserver- is the weight to hold on to. The 3 sides to the life preserver (as the Bishop broke down) is: Admit it
Close it There is no easy way to this level of life. Just as with keeping a beautiful and growing garden- it must constantly be tended to, pruned, watered, nourished and harvested. You see, the harvest is one of the most important elements, not just because you are reaping your profits, but because some of those profits will gradually make its way back to the surrounding community. By advancing your society you advance yourself. One pebble makes a thousand ripples. The deeds of your work is felt far and wide, not just in your own belly.We often hear the saying- “Let Go and Let God”. I don’t interpret that as saying just stop and let some unseen force do it for you. No matter what you call your “God” there is an ideology to your God. No matter if it’s Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism etc… I’ve never read a message of theirs where their God says to be evil, to hate, to be in despair, to not love. Regardless of the different rules and regulations of each I just don’t see those things. So, in my view, to “let go and let God” means to put your own ideas to the side and live out the ideologies of God. In other words, let the way of God move into your way. Be God The Most High, The Universal Way or All That Is Good… Let God!The plight continues. And thanks to Bishop T.D Jakes I have a little bit more information on how to get there. So, not only are these lessons on how to bounce back, but to bounce ahead. Peace and Blessings.