The Little Work Book: Chapter 2
Don’t Believe the Big Lie
A lot of times people say things that are not true. If these untrue things go unchallenged long enough, we start to accept them as facts. Once they are accepted as facts, decisions are made with those “facts” as the foundation. For example, in the months leading up to the year 2000, I was told that everything was going to fall apart the moment the next millennium began. Our computers were going to crash. There would be food shortages, gas shortages, and power outages. I was told to buy a generator, stock up on nonperishable foods, and be prepared to go through a long season of serious turmoil. The good news for me was that I was going through some challenges of my own at the time and didn’t have extra money to purchase a generator, stock up on food, or be too concerned about my computer. I went to bed the last night of 1999 thinking, “Well, if it all falls apart, I’ll just have to deal with it as it happens. I think I’ll just trust God to take care of us like He has been for all my life.” I went to bed, went to sleep, woke up the next morning, and found out that nothing had changed.
Since I started working in prison ministry in 2006, I have been repeatedly told a “fact” that is absolutely not true. “If you have a felony, you can’t find work.” How do I know that is not true? Because I was a former felon; and when I got out of prison, I found work. As I continued to work hard and well, I found favor with my bosses. Eventually, with their help, I was able to start my own business, and it did well. My bosses liked me, my co-workers liked me, and my customers liked me. I brought value to every job I did. I was not the most talented or skilled. I was not the strongest or the smartest. Yet, even with a felony record, I was able to find work and excel at it. Because of this experience, I have never bought into the lie that someone with a felony cannot make it on the outside.
Unfortunately, a lot of felons and ex-felons believe this lie. Perhaps they have been told the lie by people they respect. Perhaps their own personal experience of dealing with rejection and disappointment has clouded their thinking. Perhaps they are insecure and truly don’t believe anyone would ever want to hire them to do anything. Perhaps they have given up too easily and haven’t developed the determination and commitment to push through. These are not judgments but considerations.
One of the reasons I am writing this book is because I want to expose and dispel this lie. It would not do anyone any good to read a book about the benefits of work if they believed they were automatically disqualified to participate.
It should be noted that everyone has been deceived in some way during their lifetime. The world can be a tricky place to live. The good news is that regardless of whatever lies we have believed and whatever consequences we have experienced, our circumstances can begin to change the instant we embrace the truth.
What I have noticed in addressing the subject of work with former inmates and their families and friends, is that choosing the truth requires a lot more effort on everybody’s part than sticking with the lie. If the former felon decides to believe the truth, then they are going to have to get a job and go to work. Those closest in relationship with this person will most likely be part of the process of helping them find work and be involved in some form of accountability to challenge them to stick with it.
Frankly, it’s easier to believe they can’t find work and then send them down to some government agency to get assistance. But by doing this, it’s usually not long before the ex-felon is back into whatever got them into trouble in the first place, back on the street, and soon enough, back in prison.
In this situation, everybody is off the hook for a while. The pressure to grow up and become responsible is off the felon’s plate for another season. They can tell some new stories of how the system is against them, how society doesn’t care, how they can’t catch a break, and continue on unchanged. The boss that was going to give them a chance doesn’t have to deal with them. The friends who were going to make sure they had transportation and encourage them don’t have to adjust their schedules. The family members who were going to help them out for a couple of months until they got on their feet don’t have to give them money or learn to trust them. The can has been kicked down the road until another time.
But problems put off with no real plan for solving them become worse, not better. In this case, the former felon, now back in prison, will be tempted to believe nothing will ever change. Family, friends, and society in general, also tempted to think the situation hopeless, will be liable to pander, enable, ignore, and keep the cycle going. The felon loses, their family loses, the community loses, society in general loses, and the lie becomes stronger.
The solution is simple. Stop believing the lie, commit to finding a job no matter how long it takes, and then go to work.
To work is a biblical mandate, and having a criminal history is not an excuse to not obey. So, you might ask, “How does one start this new way of thinking?”
The best way is to surrender your life to Jesus Christ and put Him in charge. The greatest and quickest changes in my life began the day I said, “Lord, I’m tired of living life my way. I want to live it your way and on your terms.” Once I prayed this, all I had to do was learn and obey. All I had to do was follow. Surrender to God is not bondage but freedom.
John 8:31-32 (NLT)
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
It does not say, “and the truth will set you free… unless you have a criminal record.”
Philippians 4:19 (NLT)
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
It does not say, “God will supply all your needs… unless you’ve been in prison.”
Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It does not say, “I can do everything through Christ… except get a job.”
To those who are reading this who have a criminal record:
You’ve done time in jail or prison. You’ve believed you don’t have a future. You’ve believed you’ll always be at the bottom. You’ve believed you can’t get a decent job, or advance with a company, or own a company. You’ve believed that life has passed you by, that you are a failure, you are stupid, you are a loser.
These are all lies.
You can change your course the moment you surrender to Christ. You can change your course the moment you stop believing the lie. I encourage you to make this decision. You do have a future; you can find work. You are valuable to this life and to the Kingdom of God. The solution is simple. It isn’t easy, but it is simple. I’ve been exactly where you are, I know what to do, I’ve done it, and in the next chapter, I am going to show you how to do it.