“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!
I love this! My brother “did time” and he is the hardest working, kind, and generous person I’ve ever known. He has paid his debt, has 8 years sobriety, and deserves to be seen as the person he is, rather than to be judged by the mistakes he made in the past. My heart and my respect go out to all these women who are striving to improve their lives. Thank you, Denise, for all you do to respect all humans (and animals!) and to inspire each of us to be better forms of ourselves. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.”
So true. Thank you for the words of encouragement. I am passionate about this, and can’t not speak up.
Love you Denise! Thanks for sharing❤️
Wow! Thanks for opening my eyes and helping me see this in a different way. This applies to so many aspects of our lives.
I agree. It’s a lesson we can all learn to help us walk a bit more softly around each other.
Thank you Denise for bolding asking this! We have seen first hand now for months, this pattern from others over and over, with our courageous women who are doing their best to move forward in their lives. For some, it simply requires a bold invitation and an education to see it through different eyes WIDE OPEN with compassion and understanding. You have provided that here:) Our coaching them as to their individual rights to be assertive and set boundaries such that they can redirect others inquiries to be about the present and future, and not about the past, is a beautiful gift! When you stop and think about it, there are so many more empowering questions for all of us to be asking each other, right?
Right! And so much more rewarding and uplifting to be in those conversations.
I just graduated from Denise’s YTT Summer Program and one of my classmates was Amber who was in prison four years. She is one of the most amazing women I have ever met and taught me valuable lessons of growth and moving forward in life! I am forever grateful to know her and call her my friend.
Thank you for acknowledging Amber, and being supportive of her. She definitely did teach all of us as she committed to this program.
Thank you Denise. I’ve been struggling with and feeling consumed by the past. I love your program and hope to finish someday.
I am glad these words are speaking to you. I am here to help you in any way I can. Let me know how we can get you finished!
I am so glad you posted this! I would never think to ask someone that question. I think people don’t realize how stupid or painful their questions are sometimes. Patience, Love and Enlightenment are what these (mostly) well-intended people need and coming from the one that they want to judge could be life changing! I love your suggestions. I also love killing stupid with stupid, but that requires an awesome sense of humor. I am not as quick witted as I’d like to be. I bet if we thought about it we could come up with some pretty funny remarks for them to say. Not sarcastic or equally hurtful or judgmental, just funny… Thanks for posting this. I love you!
Yes Sheri! Let’s think of some funny, but kind responses. You have a great sense of humor, and so do many of these women.
Forgiveness and non judgment is a Beautiful GIFT we can give and receive from one another each day 🙂