A prison is defined as a building where people are legally denied their right to freedom. Even though physical prisons are dreadful, they are not the worst form of bondage. The worst form of bondage is when one denies themselves the ability to be free. The worst type of bondage is when one finds themselves in a seemingly hopeless predicament of wanting to change but being incapable of changing. A hopeless predicament where the jailer is also the prisoner. In this predicament, the prisoner craves freedom but cannot emancipate himself.
All of us at some point in our lives can probably relate to such a prisoner. A point where we are our greatest enemy and where we feel like we can’t defeat ourselves. Personally, I have had moments in my life where I have felt helpless and powerless. I’ve been stuck in self – destructive habits that I knew were bad, but I also thought they were inherent. If you are anything like me then you have had self – destructive habits or negative habits that were not aligned with my goals, dreams or morals but that I felt like were a part of my nature. There have been a couple moments in my life where I felt as if I was stuck in an invisible prison and that there was nothing that I could do about it.
I found myself doing stuff not because I wanted to but because other people wanted me to or because I was incapable of controlling my emotions/urges. I found myself questioning if I was who I am because I want to or because other people wanted me to. I found myself questioning if I was truly free because being free means that I had the power to say ‘no’ and I found myself incapable of saying ‘no’. I also found myself taking responsibility for where I was in life and the invisible prisons that I found myself. I used to find myself shifting the responsibility of my mistakes onto other things, events or people. I used to find myself waiting for someone or God to deliver me instead of trying to emancipate myself. The Lord is the source of my strength and he promises deliverance but even the Israelites had to fight their own battles at the end of the day. And while it is an extremely hard task to take full responsibility for your life, it is a necessary ingredient for freedom. One cannot be free without being responsible. Both concepts go hand in hand so one cannot have one without the other.
If you ever find yourself in invisible prisons, then you must first realize that you are your own jailer and that you must accept responsibility before you can break free. If you are to break free, then you must ask yourself tough questions and you need to answer honestly. You need to ask for help from a friend or reach out to a trusted individual. You need to recognize and acknowledge the chains that are holding you in your prison in order to break them.
Most times people realized that they are trapped when it’s too late and after the damage has already been done. While I strongly advise constant self – reflect and analyzation, I was one of those individuals that realized I was in chains when it was too late. It was when my back was against the wall that I made the choice to take responsibility for life and not to remain in bondage. I chose to reclaim my peace that I was not going to let the chains of past or present prevent from growing into my purpose and destiny. In order to realize what my chains were, I had to ask myself some tough questions that made me comfortable. These are some of the questions that I asked myself:
What are my chains?
My personal chains were my sources of happiness, the mistakes of my past and self – destructing choices that led to self – destructing habits. One of the most important things that I learned on my journey of self – discovery was that yesterday’s choices can become today’s habits which will eventually turn into tomorrow’s chains. While not all habits are bad, all habits start with little choices. If you consistently make negative choices, then you will develop negative habits but if you consistently make positive choices then you will develop positive habits. The habits that you develop are directly connected to the choices that you make so you if you want better habits then you have to consistently make positive choices.
Don’t listen to that voice in your head that whispers that this choice doesn’t matter and that it is insignificant. The truth is that small choice does matter, and you have to resist those tempting times if you want to break free from your chains. You know you’ve found your personal chain when those tempting times keep reoccurring and you often find yourself in a shameful, helpless or powerless position. Chains often restrict your growth and prevent you from becoming who you truly want to be. The first step to breaking free is to recognize your chains then start to make positive and consistent decisions to counter it.
What’s your happiness chained to?
I discovered that my happiness was chained to conditional things such as attention. Since attention was one of my main sources of happiness, I literally sought it out in everything that I did. It literally got to the point where I was doing things that I really didn’t want to do because I wanted attention. This was a self – destructive habit because it led to me stepping out of alignment with my values and my actions. It was also self – destructive because it led to other things such as greed, jealousy, and selfishness. While your source of happiness may not be the same as mine was, it might be of the same nature. If your source of happiness is out of your realm of control and is conditional, then we’re in the same boat.
When your happiness and joy is chained to fleeting desires then you are more likely to be miserable and out of alignment with your goals/visions. When your happiness and joy is chained to conditional desires then you are going to experience conditional happiness and joy. In order for your happiness and joy not to be conditional then your source must also not be conditional. A major source of happiness in my life right now is doing that which I am passionate about and being true to myself. At the end of the day, I love mentoring and writing. Both activities bring me happiness and joy, but it is not dependent on anyone or any circumstance. While I may not be happy or joyful all the time, my emotions are not tied to something that is inconsistent, negative and out of my control. I have had experiences that have shaped my life and passions which are unconditional. By chaining my happiness to that which I am passionate about and is also purposeful then I am able to make small choices every day to lead to happiness and joy in a positive way.
Are you chained to public opinion?
In all honesty, this might have been and still is one of the biggest chains in my life. I am better now but I used to be extremely concerned with what people thought of me. I used to go out of my way to make people like me and I used to seek to please people in every decision that I made. I used to let the opinions of others affect how I saw myself and how I lived my life. The opinions of others literally used to cripple me and make/break my mood. At one point in life, how people saw me was one of the most driving influences.
The influence of public option in my life did not subside until the same people that I spent months trying to impress dragged my name through the mud and all I began to hear about myself was negative phrases. It wasn’t until I got to this moment that I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to be defined by people who did not care for my well-being and did not have my best interests at heart. I had always heard that you couldn’t please everyone through your decisions, but I had never heard that you shouldn’t try to please others at the expense of yourself. I never heard that people would whisper your success and broadcast your failures until I was in that position. I never knew that all the good you have done can go out the window without any due process or questioning when you seemingly mistake. I never know that it is extremely self – destructive to base your life on the opinions of vultures, snakes and people who do not even know themselves. And while I may have heard or seen warnings of this message, it did not resonate with me until I experienced for myself.
Once I experienced it, I made a commitment to myself that I would no longer be a prisoner to public opinion. I promised myself that I would do that which is purposeful according to the will of God and my own natural proclivities regardless of what others thought of me. I also asked myself about the choices that led to my imprisonment to public opinion. One thing that I realized was that my fear of judgment was a result of my own judging eyes. I judge people and participated in gossip, so my own fear of judgment and negative public discourse was heightened. The small choices such as talking about people behind their backs and judging people based on physical appearance of material possessions led to the self–destructive habit of living based on public opinion.
This is just one example of small choices that can lead to habits which can materialize into an invisible prison. Just as how you can make small choices that are bad, you can make small choices every day that will lead to your progression. For me, those small choices included the removal of certain people from my life, removing myself from gossiping mouths, averting and just treating everyone as I would like to be treated. If you find yourself stuck in an invisible prison, then you have the power to break free. You have the power to align your life with purpose and meaning. You have the power to do it and you will do it. The battle is in your mind and you have already won if you claim it. You are the embodiment of victory and victory is yours. Be strong and Rise up!