You Get to Choose Freedom or Imprisonment
Life Coaching lessons show up all over the place. This month, I have one from a special book I’m reading, The Book of Joy, co-written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I highly recommend it.Life Coaching lessons show up all over the place. This month, I have one from a special book I’m reading, The Book of Joy, co-written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I highly recommend it.
They tell a story I’ll never forget.
From the book …
“Anthony Ray Hinton spent thirty years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He was working in a locked factory at the time the crime was committed.
When he was arrested in the state of Alabama in the United States, he was told by police officers he would be going to jail because he was black. He spent thirty years in a five-by-seven foot cell in solitary confinement, allowed out only one hour a day.
During his time on death row, Hinton became a counselor and friend not only to the other inmates, fifty-four of whom were put to death, but to the death row guards, many of whom begged Hinton’s attorney to get him out.
When a unanimous Supreme Court ruling ordered his release, he was finally able to walk free.
One does not know the value of freedom until one has it taken away. People run out of the rain. I run into the rain. How can anything that falls from heaven not be precious? Having missed the rain for so many years, I am grateful for every drop. Just to feel it on my face.
When Hinton was interviewed on the American television show 60 Minutes, the interviewer asked whether he was angry at those who had put him in jail. He responded that he had forgiven all the people who had sent him to jail. The interviewer incredulously asked, “but they took thirty years of your life – how can you not be angry?’
Hinton responded …
If I’m angry and unforgiving, they will have taken the rest of my life.”
Those words sent chills up my spine.
Life lessons don’t get any more profound than that.
If Anthony Ray Hinton can find forgiveness in his heart … forgiveness that allows him to live the rest of his days full of joy and appreciation and free from bitterness, can we not do so ourselves?
Certainly we can, for it’s hard to imagine any person or institution doing to us anything more horrific than what this man had done to him … or any crime or abuse we’ve endured being worse than what Mr. Hinton endured.
Now, here’s the beauty in all this.
No matter how badly we’ve been treated, life always gives us the opportunity to live it on OUR terms going forward.
We don’t need to remain imprisoned by our sense of victimhood.
Believe me, I’ve been there. We all have at one time or another, and there’s no cheese down that tunnel.
You’ll never find freedom, satisfaction, and a joyful sense of possibility from a place of anger and bitterness. It just won’t happen.
But you will find peace and possibility in a happy heart.
Consider the analogy this story puts before us:
Forgiveness was every bit as much a key to freedom for Anthony Ray Hinton as the key the guards used to set him free.
That key is available to all of us. But you have to turn it yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.
To forgive … is it hard to do?
Yes. But consider who you’re doing it for … someone pretty special … someone who deserves it.
After all …
Forgiveness is not a gift we give to others. It’s a gift we give ourselves.
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