Growing up, my parents taught me a golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I also got some little wisdom like “Honey catches flies better than vinegar”.
I consider myself a very nice person. In fact, I can recall times in my life where I was too good to be true. I have to admit that for most of my life I’ve battled the idea that people don’t like me, so I’ll be nice when I don’t have to.
However, as I got older, I found that it didn’t matter what other people thought, so I just lived my life and did the best I could. That’s how I see life in the free world. Will it change in prison?
Which leads us to today’s topic: If you are nice and nice to everyone, what will happen to you in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Prison life is not about being kind, it’s about being strong
- If you’re too nice in prison, you’ll be used
- Prison can change you in ways you never expected
Prison life is not about being kind, it’s about being strong
Prison is definitely the kind of place that chews you up and spits it out. If you are not strong about who you are and what you believe in, you will fall prey to the needs and desires of those around you.
Essentially, when you’re in prison, the line “you have to hold on to certain things or you’ll fall for anything” is very important.
Inmate Mistie Vance, who has been in prison for ten years, says learning how to navigate prison is like learning how to navigate life: it’s all about balance. She said she had seen many people who made the prison environment “difficult” for them.
In prison—as in the real world—everyone has the capacity to be compassionate and kind. But the never-ending struggle between pride and humility leads most prisoners to become more ruthless. Ultimately, the goal is self-preservation.
If you’re too nice in prison, you’ll be used
To be honest, people who are too friendly in prison are generally taken advantage of by other prisoners with stronger personalities. The world is full of people whose main goal is to get the most out of everything, and they will stop at nothing to make it happen. Prisons are no exception. Living in a high security facility means having access to the best and brightest in the school of master manipulators. Every good criminal knows the victim when he sees the victim.
The problem with being nice in prison is that kindness is often viewed as weakness. A person who is nice to everyone because they need so much to be accepted would make a perfect victim because they will do or give whatever is asked of them in order to make them feel accepted.
Unfortunately, when they have nothing to give, the “friends” they make move on to the next victim. Others who are particularly vulnerable are those with very submissive personalities as a result of being dominated by an abusive partner or parent. When “armed” or bullied by inmates with dominant personalities, they bend to the aggressor’s will in order to protect themselves.
Every prisoner has a story, whether it’s the words they tell or their actions. Most people live lives where abuse is commonplace, and tragedy after tragedy distorts and destroys them in a thousand ways.
To protect themselves from further heartache, some prisoners choose to isolate themselves from others, while others choose to become cold and uncaring. Others become more compassionate after experiencing profound pain. Each of these personalities manifests itself in institutional settings.
Prison can change you in ways you never expected
Mistie’s ten years in prison was a journey of strength that made him both good and strong. Due entirely to her relationship with God, she learns the art of humility, which ultimately leads to respect for herself.
Just because she thinks she’s right doesn’t mean everyone else has to agree. She said it was enough for her to know. This greatly reduces verbal bickering and making enemies. She can know everyone’s secrets, and she doesn’t feel the need to gossip because it only hurts in the end.
Even after a decade in prison, Misty says she can give without expecting anything in return, love without expectations, and stand up for what she believes in — even if she seems a little weird or crazy.
Mistie and I both discovered during our time behind bars that the secret to doing well in prison was learning to love ourselves. If you can love yourself, you can give only what you are comfortable with and know that is enough. You can value your own opinion enough not to give in to others’, and you can develop a quiet strength that others respect and want to emulate, even in prison.
Do you think you can act kind and friendly in prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Interview with WERDCC inmate Mistie Vance