LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
This is a difficult story for some to read, but I feel that it is important to share. It’s about the time when I went to a level four maximum security jail for the day with a phenomenal group called Defy Ventures. I spent time with inmates serving multiple sentences for, quite frankly, very scary crimes.
It all started when I was approached by a friend of mine, Jason Gaynord. It was his birthday and I live in Los Angeles. He was coming to visit and he told me he was planning on going to this prison as part of a program where entrepreneurs talk to inmates.
Entrepreneurs help them understand how to build a resume and get them set up to be financially successful and independent as they integrate back into society. It’s a great program, but you cannot brace yourself for the reality inside the prison. The cold, the smell, the intimidation of where you are…
I distinctly recall the stench of intimidation, fear, and oppression. After 12 checkpoints, I enter into a room with around 80 inmates in it. One gentleman comes forward and I’m on edge–I’m not a small fella either. I’m six-foot, 240 something pounds of ugly.
I’m not going to mention this guy’s name, but I tell you, he forever changed my life and I’m grateful. We were all doing an exercise where we had to forgive ourselves, so I looked at him in the eye and I told him I wanted to hear what happened. He said, “I want to forgive,” and he went into his story.
This gentleman that I was talking to, he was serving multiple life sentences for killing his father and his uncle. He explained to me that, as a lad, he had been messed around with. He had a sister and some guys were talking about what they were going to do her, so this guy snapped.
He didn’t want to assist them, so he attacked. Ultimately, his father got involved and his uncle jumped in. He was a big lad, and all of a sudden things were being used and there were weapons involved. He managed to kill both of them.
He told me that he did it to save his sister. However, his mom thinks he broke up the family. He hasn’t seen her since and he told me he didn’t get to see his sister grow up either. He told me, “I can never forget, but I have to forgive to be able to move on.”
I listened to his story quite openly. I challenge every reader to ask themselves if you had been in the same situation where a member of the family was going to come under harm, would you have not done the same thing?
After processing his story, it was my turn. Of course, I’m thinking to myself, what the hell can I say that doesn’t make me look stupid in front of this guy? I thought for a brief moment and I ended up telling him the story of when a group of people, guys that I openly despise, tried to steal my company.
They threw a lot of accusations around to try and take control and to get lawsuits involved and it was horrible. They publicly attacked my family’s reputation. It was a terrible period in my life. That’s when this guy said something very profound to me. He said, “Steve, you’ve been lying to me.”
He said, “When we met at the beginning of the day, you told me you were Steve Sims. This was you, take it or leave it. No fillers. This is it. Now, it turns out, you have been harboring this anger and this hatred to these other people for all these years.”
I thought about that. I sat on it for a long time and I realized that I had actually for many, many years.
I recalled countless times where something would happen and I would suddenly remember this whole period where these people tried to steal my company by lying and falsifying. That day, I realized how I hadn’t let go. I also realized that I’m doing not only a disservice to me by harboring that hatred, but that it was a disservice to anybody else in my world who’s ever given me 100% of themselves.
The point is, I went in there to teach the inmates, but I ended up learning far more from them, and I want to pass some of that along. Today, I urge you to be a better you. I urge you to give 100% to those around you as I work to do the same.
I forgive those men and I forgive myself, and I am forever thankful to the gentleman I met that day.