WHAT’S THE POINT — Anger and hatred are easy emotions. Well, easy to feel, difficult to conquer or control.
Anger managements experts tell us that anger builds, that it can be managed, we can learn coping skills and recognize its source and find better ways to deal with our immediate reactions to those things that spark us.
Once felt, anger can harden into a hard crust of hatred. Anger comes from the associated feelings of low self-esteem, inferiority, impotence, these are the deep roots of emotional pain that lead to future angry behavior and eventually hatred.
The angrier and more hateful someone is, the deeper their internal pain usually goes. People who like themselves are generally not very angry.
In my business I see anger and hurt all the time. Divorce and child custody law is people at their most vulnerable and hurt. It’s hard for me some days to remember that. But I’ve learned that compassion is really the only way through the pain.
This weekend I was caught up in a Netflix whirlpool of documentaries, I watched Serving Life, a movie made in the Louisiana State Prison at Angola focusing on four men who are serving life sentences for their actions, and how their involvement in a prison hospice program changed them. It focused on their training, and their path through their first client’s death.
Now Louisiana prisons are not exactly known for their enlightened views of the world, but this program was allowing these men a small measure of redemption for their bad behavior. The participants were handpicked and some were rapists, some were drug dealers, some were murderers, but all of them learned that compassion is the way to a peaceful heart.
The other documentary I watched was The Innocence Project, a movie made about the Cardozo School of Law efforts to set right what the judicial system has gotten wrong. The Innocence Project has so far set free over 300 men who were wrongfully convicted of murder, rape and a multitude of other crimes. By using DNA testing they have been able to identify and help people who were doing time for no reason.
In the movie one of the accused rapists is set free. He was convicted on the eyewitness testimony of the victim. She was certain it was him. But she was wrong. That man lost years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. If it was me, I’d be very angry at the victim who put me in jail wrongly.
However that was not his reaction when the victim apologized and met the innocent man; his reaction was forgiveness. They’ve actually formed a friendship and now give speeches on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony.
Another man spent 19 years in prison, and when he was released the prosecutor apologized to him, and rather than reject the apology, it was accepted.
Facing a lifetime of stigma these men have gone on to forgive those who did them wrong, and rather than nurture the hurt, they chose to move forward knowing that there is nothing to gain living in the anger and hatred.
Finally I was watching a replay of 60 Minutes while I was on the treadmill at the Loews Hotel and one of the segments was on a prison college program created by Bard College. Professors from Bard are teaching European History and philosophy to prisoners who can graduate with a college degree. Why in the world would a lifer commit himself to college? Why would a college send professors to a prison? Because anger and hatred can only take us so far and then we must find another way.
The prisoners in the Bard program have fewer discipline problems than the general population. They are engaged in something greater than gang warfare in the yard, they may never see the other side of the fence, but they are better people as they pay the price for their mistakes.
As our state has more and more prisoners, and as we continue to build more prisons, perhaps we could learn from other states, and apply their programs to our prisons, but more importantly to our society, to make better people before they need the prisons.
What if we could prevent the rapes, murders, burglaries, assaults by teaching people that they have options and worth, that there is a better way? Shouldn’t we do so?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.