I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone while regrettably being forced to listen to another inmate on the phone next to me scold his girlfriend or mother for not doing something he had asked them to do. “Why haven’t you sent the money? . . . you said you’d send it a week ago! You’re worthless!” Or the classic, “If you love me . . . ” only to manipulate the poor soul on the other end of the phone into feeling guilty for not doing something in a “timely” fashion.
Sadly, this mentality is prevalent in prison. It appears that when people come to prison they automatically expect the world to stop, wait for them, and make themselves available on a moment’s notice for whatever they need. They expect people they claim to love to stop what they’re doing anytime they call to do something they ask — right then and there. There’s no consideration or allowance for what their loved one is doing — it’s all about them.
I have been in prison for over twelve years, and I have managed to keep myself extremely busy and productive throughout this time. I’ve earned certificates and degrees from major universities via correspondence, published a book, blogged regularly, and much more. I unequivocally could not have done any of this without help from those on the outside who love and support me and what I am doing to better my life. But I do not operate from the fallacious, arrogant notion that they OWE me their time and assistance. And the reason why this is never my assumption is because I accept the reality that they didn’t put me here — I DID! It was me and me alone who decided to break the law and come to prison! How does that translate to others now owing it to me alter their lives in any way to come to my aid? Sure, I ask for their help and certainly appreciate it when they give it, but I don’t take it for granted; in no way do I take advantage of their love and commitment to me by beginning a request with the cunning words, “If you love me . . . ” This is nothing but a manipulative tactic to get people to do what you want them to do. In its extreme form it is pathological and sociopathic.
Quite frankly, it infuriates me to hear inmates say these things to their families and loved ones, or to great people like those who operate organizations such as Adopt an Inmate. It is the selflessness and compassion that these people freely offer out of the goodness of their hearts to those of us who messed up and put ourselves in prison that bring a rare quality to our lives while here. And to hear people who are extremely ungrateful because something wasn’t done “soon enough” or the way “it should have been done” is nothing short of despicable and ungrateful. I always feel the instinctive urge to shout in these people’s ear, “THEY DIDN’T PUT YOU IN PRISON — YOU DID!” But this would be futile and I’ll explain why.
Those who take advantage of others do so from a position of self-centeredness. This is a classic symptom of immaturity that has its roots in insecurity. Furthermore, I venture to say that most of us who are in prison have operated from this standpoint for most of our lives, thus we engaged in behavior that was self-destructive while considering no one’s feelings but our own. Because of this insatiable drive to meet our needs — often times at the expense of others — being in prison has only magnified it. Why? Glad you asked.
The reason why prison brings out the worst in those who still suffer from this undeveloped mindset is because now we are entirely dependent on others! We cannot do for ourselves even the most basic things, so our legitimate dependency is now at the forefront of our existence. This causes the person who is already inclined to expect others to meet their every need to be even more sensitive to this. Their deceitful tactics become more pronounced and more deceitfully crafted to get their way. Trying to use the logic argument that they put themselves here and therefore no one is responsible to take care of them falls on deaf ears because this would require a level of accountability and responsibility that they do not possess. And that’s why you get, “If you love me . . . “
I am grateful for all those who have sacrificed a tremendous amount of their time and effort to make my life easier and more productive over the last 12 years. I could not have done half the things I have without their help. But make no mistake, they owe me nothing — I put myself here!