“Your past does not define you, your past prepares you.” ~ Grandma Annie
Imagine…I just met you, and the first question I ask you is “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Doesn’t that make your stomach cinch up in a knot? But as I find myself working with women who have recently been released from prison, I hear them being asked this question Every. Single. Time. they meet someone new. “What did you do?” I heard it a thousand times with my Dad.
I boldly request that we STOP asking that question.
It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it really doesn’t matter.
Our curiosity about what someone did to land in prison is really an opportunity to learn about ourselves. We are asking because we want to label. We want to grade their crime. Was she a violent offender? Was it drugs? I want to hear the dirt. She looks so “normal”.
If we resist the urge to ask, we actually have an opportunity to see a human being in front of us. Someone who made a mistake, or several. Someone who has known pain, and suffering, and most likely trauma, and who has paid the price for what they did. We get to look into someone’s eyes, and see their potential, not their past.
The women who have graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training worked so hard in our training. And they “did their time”. They deserve to be seen as they are now. They are standing at a new entry point. They are ready to jump back in to society and let their goodness ripple out. They want to create a new life out here and make amends. They inspire me to do the same each day. It’s heartbreaking to watch how society, and well-meaning individuals keep pinning them back to their past.
We are coaching them to respond like this…”Thanks for asking. I don’t want to keep talking about my past. My past is finished with me. I’d love to talk about where I am now, and where I’m going.” It would be awesome if they didn’t have to say this, if we didn’t put them in that position.
The next time someone tells you they did time, I challenge you…look into their eyes, SEE them, and say I’m glad you’re here. Ask what they’re up to now. More importantly, ask what future they are living into. Their answers just might blow you away!