#213 Encouraging a loved one in prison (retro)
Encouraging A Loved One In Prison
I suppose this is indeed a tall order, but I wanted to take a shot at it to see if we can do something about this.
And notice I said “WE” not “me” or “you”. It’s gonna take some cooperation if we are to find the strength to encourage someone you love that is in prison. To many people this is impossible. Prison is a bad place, a very negative place. People in prison are stressed, depressed and full of shame or anger. Society does not care about them inside the prison or after they get out. So encouragement is out of the question.
But I beg to differ.
Today I just got back from Staples after buying some materials to help me put some things together. I want to be able to provide this offer I am putting out there for those who have loved ones in prison.
The key around all of this is to encourage that son, husband, boyfriend, pen pal or whomever you care about in the prison. We can do a few things to help out. But there has to be a plan, a blueprint if you will, on how this is done.
You see, anybody can go buy a card and send it, and I don’t want to dilute the importance of sending something. But encouragement does not live in the card…after all a card is just paper, ink, images and letters. I mean, if you really think about it, a person that hates you can send you a card.
So what am I going to do that is different? If I cannot convince you that what I am doing is worth considering and supporting, then all this will look like is an attempt to get your money.
If you are going to spend a penny with me, then you need to know what I am trying to get you to do. This is about sending a loved one something, but it is also about encouragement, and in fact, THAT must be first.
Before you buy into my cards or anything else, we have to try to get you in the right frame of mind. It’s not enough to just “send stuff”. We have to get you in a more positive and encouraging frame of mind. Why is this important? Because the way you feel does have an impact on your loved one who is incarcerated.
See, a lot of you don’t believe that, but a lot of it is shown in what you say. I read so many times about why some feel like their loved ones don’t want to talk to them. A lot of people say that their loved ones are not comfortable in a conversation with them and they don’t know why.
Lots of times we forget that sometimes it is our words that have a part in it as well. Sometimes you can “say” you are trying to be positive, but the words you actually say or write tell the true story. It’s also in how you say it too. Many times it isn’t so much that you are not saying that you are trying to be encouraging, it is in the delivery too.
That’s got to change if you are going to really be helpful to your loved one in prison. You have to have a positive attitude in how you communicate with your loved one. The problem is many people confuse “positive” with “happy”.
Some of you think that you are supposed to be joyful and dancing in the streets because your son got 10 years, or throwing a party because your husband or boyfriend got sent to prison for 15 years. That’s not what I am talking about.
Being positive is defined as “constructive and helpful”. You can easily see the difference in being positive and the opposite, that being destructive. There is no need for you to be destructive, condemning, stressful, depressed or any other negative feelings towards someone you love IF you are trying to encourage them.
But then the question is asked…WHAT are you encouraging them to do?
Think about your loved one in prison for a minute. If that means stepping away from my blog for a moment, do that…I ain’t going nowhere….
Think about that person you care about. And while you are doing that, separate all the negatives of what he or she did from the actual person. I know we cannot fully ignore why he or she is in prison, but for most of you, you knew that person before they went to prison.
Think of that person that you love so much, or care about very much (for you pen pals writers), and think of something good you want for that person. What do you desire for that person? I realize most of you are thinking “for him to get out of prison tomorrow” but let’s try to work on something more practical.
If you care about somebody, you obviously have well wishes for that person. You don’t wish negative things on your son, do you? You are not sitting here hoping your husband or boyfriend catches “hell” while in prison do you? You want the opposite to happen, you desire something positive to happen to him or for him.
For some of you, it might be his case being reviewed or possibly overturn. For others it might be getting parole or probation. For others it might be for him or her to find peace in what happened. For some of you it might be that they may find God and accept Him. Still others might want their loved ones in prison to be safe, or to know that they have people out there that still love him. There are many things that you can think about that are positive upon your loved one.
In order to keep that positive feeling going, you need to encourage that person, to keep them positive and hopeful until that resolution you are hoping for happens. To encourage means to “give hope or confidence to”. You want to be able to support that person’s hope by keeping them focused ONLY on the positive.
“Does that mean to ignore the negatives in life?”
No, not necessarily. For example, if you have a husband in prison, and his mother gets sick, you cannot fairly ignore telling him this information. He needs to know. Often times there will be negative things that may not be too helpful to a person in prison. For some of you, it might be finances keeping you from making that visit that you were both looking forward to. You can’t ignore some negative things, but that does not mean you should never tell him. But if you do, you must focus even harder to encourage that person to hang in there.
Remember, to encourage is to give confidence and hope to a person. This is the reason I am writing these blogs, this is the reason I am offering these cards and prison encouragement certificates. This is what we need to instill before you send your loved one anything.
“But what if my encouragement is just false hope?”
Then you didn’t have faith in the situation to begin with. Simply put.
I want you to understand what I am saying here folks, you sending a person a card or anything with some nice sayings means NOTHING if you are looking at a false hope. It’s got to be REAL to you first before you can encourage someone else. You are a physical support for someone right now, but if you are not convinced of your strength in encouragement, then it isn’t real encouragement.
Just what is false hope? It is something you WANT to happen, but deep down don’t believe can happen. It’s like me saying I expect to buy an island near Tahiti by the end of the year…but I know deep down that won’t happen. That sounds foolish but is it any different if you are telling your son in prison that you are doing well, but spend every day reading sad stories on prison support sites and making posts about how nobody understands your pain?
What you are really believing, is that you are miserable.
You cannot give hope when you don’t have it. I have mentioned on some of my blogs that I need a new computer. Suppose one of my readers has the shell of one and decided to send it to me. They heard that I needed a computer and send me a computer with NOTHING inside…just the casing of the computer.
What good is that to me?
And DON’T talk to me about “it’s the thought that counts”! If you give somebody something that does not meet their needs, then you are not helping. That is not just for physical needs but also spiritual and emotional.
False hope works in the same way, in that on the outside it appears to be something of value, but once put to the test, it always fails because it isn’t what it was supposed to be.
Is any of this making sense to you guys?
I am trying to get you to look at a negative situation and find some hope and faith to help someone you love. We’re not talking about perfect people but last I checked, nobody walking this earth right now is perfect anyway. We all screwed up at least 100 times this year. But I need you to understand what it’s going to take to help that person you care so much about. And it starts with you being encouraging to that person, to help him see that there is hope. I need you to give that person confidence that there IS hope.
But hope is not enough…you need faith too.
You have to believe not only that things can get better for that person in prison, but it also WILL get better. But what are you banking that on? For every hope you have and give, there has to be a credible source for you to believe in, or else it is just false hope.
This is where faith comes in. If you have a son in prison, what are you hoping for? Now, here is where a LOT of moms miss it, because for most, when it comes down to it, they are too busy worried about their son or daughter to even hope for something. The same goes for a lot of wives and girlfriends too.
You can’t have faith unless you have hope…and you can’t have hope if you are too busy mired in the negatives of the situation. So many people look at the fact that their loved one is in prison, and never really start to address how they can help that person. So many people talk about “nobody knows my pain” or “I don’t know what to do” or “I have never been in this situation before” or “I don’t understand what is going on” or “I feel so lost and terrible.”
You notice the common element in those statements…YOU.
To be sure, this is a very difficult situation, but often times we get so caught up in our own problems that we cannot possibly see that there just might be some solutions. And the moment you start to believe there ARE solutions, you start to hope. The moment you start to hope is when you are in a position to encourage. All this stuff works together, you cannot separate it and think a simple card is going to patch things up.
Let’s use me as an example. I know I could probably use one of the numerous emails I get as an example, but since I kinda know me a little more, I don’t mind using myself.
I am offering prison cards, prison encouragement certificates and other products for those looking to help encourage their loved ones in prison. WHY? Because I want to help. I believe I can help encourage others because I have a hope that I can be of valuable service to people who have no hope. But what is my hope based on? What results am I looking for?
I am hoping that a mom in Denver, or a wife in Miami, or a girlfriend in Beverly Hills or a pen pal in Boston (and all points in between) can find the strength to help a person sitting in prison or jail to believe that things can get better. As a guy that has gone through this, I know how valuable this can be. But I can’t give you that encouragement if I didn’t believe it myself. I could write a couple of blogs and lie to myself that I am helping you, but if it’s not in my heart, then there is no way I could keep writing as I have.
So this is not about false hope…I DO believe I can help. But what is it based on? Why do I believe that you can help that loved one in prison? What am I banking it on? If there is no true source, then I am fooling myself…and you too. I base the substance of my hope…that being faith… on what I have experienced.
There is no question that God has helped me more than I can count…and we all know I am not on the top 100 Christians list. But I have seen more than once that there is a SOURCE you can count on to help you in difficult situations. I have learned that with just a little faith, and some patience, even the darkest times can change. In short, I believe that a person with faith that God can help them get through this will indeed have the substance to hope, and if to hope, then to encourage.
I can offer these cards because I have faith that my hopes to help are strongly supported. When I create these cards, or write my blogs, or answer emails, it is with faith that I can help someone who needs it. It’s not just about, “give me some money and I will send you something”. I’ve got to really, really care about you to do as much as I have. And this goes for you towards your loved one. You’ve got to really, really care about that person in prison.
That means you can’t go around worried all the time. That does not mean to ignore it, hey, we’re all human. You’ve read my blogs and know that sometimes I get ticked off…I have feelings too. But the key is not to reside in that situation, to always find a way out by being positive and encouraging. There are millions of inmates that need to hear that right now.
All this stuff works together. You must have faith in something before you can encourage somebody, otherwise it’s just false hope. It’s like if your boyfriend asks you to scout around for some possible jobs when he gets out, and you never look into it, but in your letters you keep saying, “I hope you can get a good job when you get out”. Well what good is that when you aren’t helping to solve that problem? We KNOW he can’t do it from prison, that’s why he asked you for help. But if you don’t help him, why give him false hope when you have not applied faith to it?
The moment you start believing that things can change for your loved one is the moment you can start encouraging with power. You can do that because you are convinced that things CAN get better. And when you’re convinced, it is easier to convince him.
“Yeah, but what if he does not believe it?”
I didn’t say it would be as easy as PIE, I said it would be easier. Remember you are fighting a feeling of negativity that breeds like a swarm of mosquitoes…that place is called prison. An inmate in prison is fighting incredible negativity and doubt and unbelief while he is incarcerated. Add on top of this his depression, stress and guilt, and you can understand why it is so critical for you to be able to help this person to see hope.
I say this to lots of people when I used to post and I think many have not fully accepted this fact: YOU have far more resources to stay positive than he does. It is amazing how some people will wrestle you to the ground just to try to prove that people on the outside have it harder to find hope than those on the inside. You can’t tell me that for one second.
Right now, if I really feel burdened with something as of 12 noon, on a Friday, sitting here in front of my computer, I have MANY options…if I choose to take them. I can go outside for awhile and cool down mentally. I can walk to the park, buy me a soda and think about some stuff. I can email some friends and talk to them. I can CALL some friends and talk to them. I can go see a pastor or some minister and express my problems. I can talk to my family about it. I can go online and look for help (or certain BLOGS). I can just stop, go in the living room and hook up the Xbox 360 and play some games. I can pop in a movie and watch it. I can turn to Cartoon Network and get some laughs. I can go to the mall and window shop. I can do a lot of things to either take my mind off the problem for a moment or find a solution to it.
But if I was in prison, my options are very limited. Far more limited than if I was free. People don’t get that, and many don’t want to get it. They want to let the world know that they are having a horrible time and it is worse than their loved one in prison….
Would you want to change places? I didn’t think so.
Now this is not to belittle your problem, I never said you didn’t have a problem. I said that you have many more venues to fight it than one in prison. Because of this, you have many more opportunities to find hope, and to strengthen yourself. This is critical because if you can do that, then you become the source of encouragement to one in prison. Why is this important? Because a man or woman in prison may or may not be able to accept positive thoughts…to some it’s just a wish to them when they are surrounded by negativity. That’s one reason why sometimes guys reject hope and faith and encouragement.
That’s why some may not believe your encouragement. So what do you do, give up and just accept the worst…or do you keep giving him encouragement?
Well…what are you gonna do?
Lots of people get impatient with a loved one in prison when things are not changing the way they want, and they give up on them. Remember folks, if you are going to instill hope and encouragement, it might not happen on that first letter or card…it may not happen on the 10th letter or card…but if you keep working at it, he or she is going to see that you apparently have a strong sense of hope, and for you to continue to send these cards or certificates or letters must mean that YOU see something they don’t see. It shows that you are not giving up on them, and that fact alone can give a person a sense of hope.
Now, I also understand that many times inmates don’t do their part, and in fact take advantage of others. This is different from what I am talking about. There are some guys in prison that never cared about anybody but themselves, and this kinda hope does not work with them because they are not looking for your well wishes…they are looking for what they can get out of you. I am talking about guys in prison that are not perfect, but deep inside have a good heart. They WANT to believe, but are surrounded by negativity and it makes it very hard to find hope…you have to keep working on them to get them to see that there is hope.
Remember, that is what encouragement is…to give hope. It’s kinda like wiping out a debt. If you owed $5000 and were making payments to erase it, you don’t stop after the first payment of $100 do you? You can’t sit there and think that one payment of $100 is going to clear a $5000 debt. You have to keep working on it, chipping it down and being patient until you do clear that debt.
Encouragement works the same with in prison. There is such a huge debt of despair in prison that it’s going to take a bit of work to get that inmate to see positive things instead of only negative things. That means you can’t give up if it does not bring immediate results… you gotta keep working on it. And keep this in mind too, that “debt” of negativity differs from person to person. For one person, he might accept the encouragement on the first card or letter, and cling to it like his last chance. For others it might take longer, or a lot longer, because there is a lot of “debt” to chip away before he starts to believe that there is hope.
And here’s something else about being positive, it is ATTRACTIVE. People like being around those who are positive. I remember when I was in college I heard that in a poll of people we least like to be around, the number one answer was “people that kept complaining”. I mean, think about it, would YOU want to be around people that always complained? Well, think about the opposite of that. Wouldn’t you want to be around people who were always trying to see the better side of things?
A guy in prison actually said that of me once. He was having some hard times trying to get a transfer to a closer prison and he had a lot of burden on him, and I talked to him about how we can find some solutions to help him (see, even as inmates, we have to help one another).
I remember one time we were outside on the yard and he said to me, “you know, it’s hard to be down when I’m around you”. But you want to know the greatest irony: I was miserable.
My life in prison had not turned into some blossom of blessings, and I still had major questions about God making a way for me while in prison. But I never told anyone about that; this was between God and me. But on the outside I tried to be as positive as I could, and that is what made me “attractive” to other inmates.
(not in a physical way guys…)
People are always looking for sources of hope, something to believe in. And to those that give it, they become lights in a dark place. This is why it is so important for you to understand just how much power you have when you encourage your loved one. Once you buy into the fact that things CAN get better, you can build off that in your encouragements to your loved one….but you have to believe they can get better.
ALL this stuff is just a part of why I write these blogs or provide my cards, encouragement certificates and my prison books. I believe I can help. I believe you want to help someone in prison. If we both work together, we just might be able to instill some hope in that person’s life. Never mind that he or she is in prison, the purpose of prisons (as they say) is to punish and to rehabilitate….it’s the second part we are trying to do, not the first.
So I want to provide a package to those who first believe that they want to help a loved one in prison, and second for those who believe what I am sharing. If you are not sold on either of those conditions, don’t bother me. Don’t email me out of curiosity, because you’re wasting my time…and yours.
But when you come to the conclusion that you have someone in prison that your heart longs to help, and if you believe that this crazy nut on the other end of this blog really does believe that he can help, then email me. Ask me about my card packages or prison encouragement certificates or my prison books. I’m not gonna add you to some spam list or try to hit you up for some cash. I will do my best to email you back and discuss your email, or if I get enough emails on the same subject, I will just blog it because it helps everyone.
Give it some real thought, just like you would before entering someone’s home. You just don’t walk in and start talking, you prepare yourself before you go in. Decide if emailing me is something you want to do, and if so, do it. But before you do, make sure you know that you want to help someone in prison. When you get to that point, and are ready to encourage your loved one, you’re already made a huge step in the right direction.
Oh well, I could write 50 more pages on this, but let’s cut it there. Email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.
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