When you go to prison, the identity you had on the street is gone and it is replaced with one of a myriad of new identities. You may be identified by the crime you committed (this is especially true for men who commit crimes against kids). You could be identified as simply “the new guy” if this is your first go round. But more often than not, you become identified by what skills you bring to the table to make survival there easier. This is referred to as your hustle.
Many men are known by their ability to get access to and sell things like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and weapons, but there are others that are able to provide more positive services. Some people are gifted at sewing, so they become known as tailors. Some are gifted at drawing and make beautiful pictures and greeting cards that inmates can purchase to send to family on the outside. Some are tattoo artists, some cut hair, some are law experts, and some cook meals using a hot pot and make big money (in prison terms) providing relief from nasty prison food. Regardless of what it is, it is almost necessary to have some sort of hustle.
But here is the kicker…it’s technically against the rules to do anything to raise money aside from state appointed jobs. So as soon as you arrive you have a decision to make. Do you protect yourself and establish a reputation by having a good hustle but run the risk of additional punishment or do you stay out of trouble by following the rules but risk attempting prison life with nothing to barter in exchange for your safety? Tough decision.
So what is your hustle? What is it that you use in your life to barter with in order to gain respect or emotional safety? Is it your sexuality? Maybe you get the attention you need through sex with multiple partners. Is it sports? Do you overemphasize the athletic prowess that you or your children have in order to gain the respect that you crave from people? What if it’s your image as a super-mom? Do you keep your kids well dressed, well behaved, and well rounded while all the while making sure to never let on that you have any problems at all? Is your career? Your knowledge? Your looks? How much stuff you have? We all have one. Some of us depend on ours more than others in order to validate ourselves, but we’ve all got something.
The thing is, none of us need those things in order to be valuable. We were created with inherent value and have nothing to prove. So even though it may be hard for you to be vulnerable, it is freeing to let your walls down and let people see who you really are. You are worth more than whatever lame hustle you’ve devised yourself to try and protect your image.
You are valuable - Matthew 10:29-31
You were created to be the light of the world - Matthew 5:14-16
God is on your side - Romans 8:31
You are God’s family - Hebrews 2:11
You were created to do great things - John 14:12
You were bought with the highest price - 1 Corinthians 6:20