I have a friend who served a thirteen months sentence in Federal prison for an SEC (Security Exchange Commission) violation. Concurrent with the US market collapse of 2007, the US government started a campaign to round up all the bad guys who they could punish and blame. My friend became the face of a thousand bad guys and received the full weight of the US government’s wrath and punishment. By his own admission, “I made a mistake” and ten years later he has paid his debt in full.
I had a tearful conversation with him after he served his first of two periods of incarceration. He told me a story about the man he used to be when he owned airplanes, vacation homes and earned millions of dollars each year. I didn’t know him when his life was governed by a drug addiction. I didn’t know him when he would disappear for a three-day bender in Las Vegas. I met him in the aftermath.
Like a city burned to the ground, he continues to rebuild his life. He paid the attorneys. His family is restored and under continual renovation. His wife and kids have extended him forgiveness. His community has welcomed him home again. He is starting businesses again.
But the slowest, the most agonizing back of the wagon train part of his restoration was regaining self-respect and dignity. Today he’d tell you, “I’ve got my integrity back and I am not going to lose it again. It cost too much.”
Although we may not relate to the high roller extremes of his story, we can identify with the allegory of his story. Self-respect and dignity are easy to ignore but difficult to regain. They are critical companions in order to experience wholehearted living.
Don’t ignore them. Don’t pretend they are not a big deal. Don’t succumb to the whisper that they can suffer a few bruises and bounce right back. No matter what has been lost, it’s never too late to start the journey back to self-respect and dignity. Be kind to yourself on the return trip. It’s going to take a while. Keep going. You’re worth it.
This post is an excerpt from the Field Guide: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life. Download the full guide here.