#180 Goals in prison blogging (retro)

May 13, 2010 at 3:17 am Leave a comment

Goals of Prison Blogging

This is actually take two on this blog, because I started this a couple of minutes ago, and my document froze on me. When that happens, I can’t save the document unless I did so before the “accident”. This has happened to me several times and is really sucks when you spend time writing and in one moment, hit a few keys at the same time, and the whole thing freezes. It has taught me to save often as I type.

Well, today it is Sunday and raining, which is fine by me. My nephew has gone back home since they go back to school Monday, so I have my time back to write more. I had been blogging lately about things from “hustles” to contraband and even some blogs about how the owner of PTO has really shown his true colors.

Last night I was looking over some of my emails and got some from a site I wrote for. As I was checking out the response, I was running across some prison blogs from a lady on the site. I read those blogs and kinda shook my head.

This lady must REALLY be miserable.

And some of you might say to yourselves, “well sure, she is!, she has a loved one in prison!” But you miss where I am going with this, something I want to discuss with you today.

I have been writing on prison issues for several years as you know. And there are times where I feel down, sometimes where I feel up, but in all I write, the idea is to get across to you that there must be hope. When you take the time to write, you have to also keep in mind that you have the ability to help or hurt someone when you “speak”.

When it comes to prison issues, I think one of the biggest problems is that too many people are embracing the misery rather than looking for hope. I mean, think about it, if a prison support site has 500 people, and half of them are always talking about negative things, who then is being helped?

There is a phrase that goes, “misery loves company”, and this is no different in prison support groups or blogs or posts. Sometimes people like to write about how bad life is just to get attention, not to help anyone. There is a difference you know.

When I talk about my problems, I do my best not to leave you hanging on the idea that my life is ONLY filled with misery. Yeah, I got my problems, just as you do, but the purpose of my blogs is to open some doors to some and get them to understand what life is like in prison, and after the sentence is over. My blogs are my way to get you to see that you CAN get through this. This is my goal when I blog.

If I am doing this right, then I will see the fruit in it because readers will email me and say “God bless you”, or someone will email me and ask a question. Or someone will email me and tell me they came across my site and had been reading all my past blogs… which of course will take you quite awhile to do.

If I am doing this right, I will have found readers who understand that I am trying my best to help you through a tough time by sharing some of mine, and how I got through it. If that leads to people wanting to buy my prison books, cards and such, great. If it leads readers to support my blogs financially, great. But even if you never said a word to me, or sent me a penny, these blogs are here to help.

That is the goal of prison blogging.

Not to destroy your hope, but to encourage it.

And this is what is missing in so many other places, like that person’s blog I was telling you about. I looked at the first page of posts on the site, and saw 7 of hers. They included titles like:

“I wish people would leave me alone sometimes”

“My family is in a sad state”

“Not even in the holiday spirit”

“Makes me want to holla”

And the others that didn’t have a straight negative title had a negative statement in the first or second sentence of that blog. Folks, let me say this to you…you CANNOT possibly overcome a loved one in prison when your every other word is negative.

It is impossible.

Now, I have not read any of this person’s blogs, and have no intentions to do so either, but I glanced across several of her prison blogs on the site (mind you this is not her personal site, but a prison “support” site), and all I could see was misery and negativity.

“But doesn’t she have the right to say how she feels?”

Well yeah, but it takes no faith to say what is on your mind. Faith is about believing in something better that is coming, not talking about what you feel. If I had a headache right now, I can take Tylenol and believe that the headache WILL go away, but if I keep whining about how my head hurts, it might feel like forever before the headache goes away.

One of the biggest problems in prison support groups is that people spend far more time embracing the problem, rather than believing in something better. Just before Christmas I wrote a post on that site challenging people to not bottom out on Christmas with a loved one in prison. I understand that sometimes you cannot help it, but what I did not want them to do was stew on that sad feeling. Depression is a terrible state of mind that pulls you deeper and deeper in the pit, until you stop embracing the problem and look for something to believe in. Many people on prison support sites don’t do that, so they keep seeing the problem rather than a solution.

And it does not help at all when people come on sharing their “pity stories” with no hope of resolution. All it does is makes those around her feel just as bad. And the sad thing about that is subconsciously, lots of people actually LIKE that.

Again, misery loves company.

Many people go to prison support sites to show off their problems like it’s some kinda medal, and sadly enough, others will flock to them just because they “know their pain”. A lady writes a post about arguing in with her husband, and instead of hearing messages of hope, all you read are identical stories of other people. All they are doing is saying “amen” to the problem…but nobody is trying to find a resolution.

Now, did I say I had the answer for every prison problem…no. But if you have read enough of my blogs, you know that when I write, the goal is to help you by trying to give you some hope, some faith and some reason to believe you can either get through this, or change the situation for the better.

Faith is not about telling everybody how miserable your life is, faith is sharing that part, but making the HOPE of the future the larger part of the post or blog you write. Let me give you an example. I am going to share two fiction posts, and show you the difference in the two:

Example ONE: Hi everybody, I am new here and I just feel so terrible because my son just went to prison. I have no idea how to handle this and I have been taking medication for the last week or two trying to understand what I did wrong. He was such a wonderful son and I love him with all my heart, I just don’t understand how he could make such a stupid mistake and end up in prison. I feel so terrible because the last time I talked to him we got in an argument and he hung up on me. I was so upset and got sick and went to the hospital and now am taking more meds. This is the worst feeling I ever had, I just don’t know how I am going to make it. My Christmas was the worst day ever and I don’t see it getting any better.

Now, that is a very emotionally filled post, and there is a lot of understanding here. I have read many posts like this, and have received many like it, so my heart is indeed touched when someone feels like this. There is no fault in someone saying this, because we know this person misses a loved one. But faith starts when you have something to believe in…and there was none in that post. This person feels very bad, and understandably so. But if this person cannot find something to hold on to, it is up to some other member to jump in and give that person faith, give them hope and something to believe in. The problem is, most people don’t. Oh sure, it is easy to say, “hi and welcome to the site, everyone is very nice and helpful, so hang in there”. But what did you really give them? Just words.

When somebody comes to a group with such a burden, then SOMEBODY has to step up and help that person by planting a real seed of faith in them. Tell them that you understand what they are going through, tell them how you first felt, and how things got better (if you had the faith that it could). That person needs somebody to grab their hand and pull them through, not stand up and clap.

That first example is kinda like those prison blogs that person wrote. The first one you can understand, maybe the second or even the third. But if that person keeps on making posts like that, it becomes a negative force that can affect the entire group. Your lack of faith can be very damaging to those looking for it, especially when you take the time and effort to write your feelings.

So how do you change that? Well, let’s do a second example, one with a little faith:

Example TWO: Hi folks, I am kinda new here and I was reading a lot of other posts before I made one myself. I never thought I would be a person joining a prison support site, but that all changed when my son was sent to prison 3 months ago. When it happened, my life crashed to the ground, and I felt so miserable I just didn’t think it was worth going on. For days and weeks I felt terrible and started getting sick. But after awhile, something inside of me told me to stay strong for my son. Even though things were very bad, I really needed something to believe in, and at the time the only thing I could believe in was that maybe there would be better days. I won’t lie to you, it was very hard, and I had questions about myself and how I raised my son, and what my son was thinking, but now all that was in the past. I decided to try my very best to build some faith in how to best help my baby in these difficult times. That meant finding people that had experienced what I went through, and spending time reading the Bible, as well as keeping myself healthy. I tell you, it still isn’t easy, and I cry many times, but I also have a hope inside of me that things will get better, and I hold on to that as hard as I can. I hope you can find the faith and strength to do the same for your loved ones. Don’t give up.

See the difference?

People are attracted to positive speaking folks, and at the same time, there are those who are attracted to those who are always complaining. Many prison support sites are filled with people that are feeling very down, so you’d think it makes sense that a person or people that is speaking positive would be appreciated or sought after. Not always true. In a twisted way, many times we like to see the faults and miseries of another just so we can compare them and know that “well, at least I’m not THAT messed up”

And yet, we see that as a blessing. A girlfriend comes on line and writes a post about how her boyfriend got 20 years, and you can tell she is hurting in her heart and needs help, but many people read that and think, “whew, I am glad my boyfriend only got 5 years”.

By doing that, we are actually glorifying on someone else’s misery. Would you like it if you made that same post about your loved one only getting 5 years, and somebody else said to you, “wow, I am sure glad my boyfriend only got 6 months in county jail”?

Yet this is what we do. If you are going to help someone, it should not matter if they got 3 years or life. People need people to talk to on these sites, and often times they don’t really get a conversation of faith, just words to let them know that they are not alone.

“But isn’t that enough”?

Nope.

If you are going to take the time so say that, then surely your heart is telling you to share more with that person. It’s like those cheap, “hi and welcome to PTO” posts people keep sharing. People who do that don’t care at all about the person they are sharing that message with…otherwise they would have put more thought into what they said. If you truly believe that this person was worth your time, then put your best effort into it to help them.

It’s not enough to just say, “I am sorry to hear about that, but you are not alone”. Is there comfort in just knowing you are not alone? No. What did you give them that they can stand on and make it one more day? Did you tell them how you are dealing with a loved one in prison? Did you give them some phone numbers to prison ministries or a ministry to call for prayer? Did you share with them how you felt in certain situations and how you got through it?

If you say to that person that they are not alone, then obviously it means that others went through these difficult times too, well, were YOU one of them, and if so, why not share some of that with them? Don’t be a shadow in the crowd, afraid to speak up, but expecting someone to give you the answers.

Often times I encourage people here to email me because I know that for ever person that does email me, there are likely 100 that don’t, for whatever reason. One of my goals for prison blogging is to get you into some form of faith for your loved one. And even if I have no idea who you are, or your situation, I blog because I have gone through the prison system. Sure, I can say your loved one is not alone as being an inmate, but it takes faith to push the envelope further, getting you to understand that he or she can get through this…and you can get through this too. But that kinda faith can never be nurtured unless someone shares some hope. If all you have been reading is negative posts or blogs where there is no solution or resolution, then it is not helping you at all.

Guys, do you understand what I am trying to say here? I care enough to keep writing, and keep writing, and keep writing, even when I have problems of my own. I have been kicked out of prison support groups by ego-driven moderators and owners, I have had people who never spent a day in prison try to tell me what prison is like and challenge me as if I am wrong. It is perhaps a great irony that a person that has done time and willing to share info on it has been rejected by the very people he was trying to help.

And yeah, I do write about those times because they are part of my life, but if you read through them, you will see how I got through it. It is critical that you understand that my blogs are not intended to be a “woe is me” story. It is intended to give you some hope, and to help you understand what your loved one might be going through. If you can get that, then I have good news for you…

You’re gonna be fine. Why? Because if you focus on hope, you will find strength to get through to the next day, and then the next week, and then the next month. I want you to get your life back, and be empowered so that when you visit your loved one, or sent that card or get that call from him, you will be strong enough to give him strength. These are not the times to cave in, and I know often times you will, I did myself. But after you fall, get back up…

Get back up…

Get back up, and embrace hope and faith.

Don’t give up on me guys, and I will give you every bit of writing I can give. We can get through this, but I need you to find some faith in this. If that means you going back and reading my blogs, do that. If that means making a positive comment, do that. If that means emailing me and asking me to talk about some particular subject, fine. If that means asking me about my prison books, cards or prison encouragement certificates, fine. If that means reading scriptures, fine. But do what you can to hang in there. Do NOT embrace negativity, there is no help in that.

And even if you do end up falling apart, that is ok, just make sure you find a foothold to get back up. If you cry on your bed tonight, do your best to find something to believe in tomorrow. If you write a miserable post on the site tomorrow, at least try to end it with, “but I am believing that things will get better”. If you have problems, then email me. I don’t know all the answers, but I do believe I am here for a reason.

You know the email by now, derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com. Don’t give up folks.

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Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#179 Free time for writing (retro) #182 Grades of Honor prison book one (retro)

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