To Free or Not to Free?
King Frederick II
When I was in college, I remember reading about an incident that apparently transpired between Frederick II, the king of Prussia in the 1700’s and a prisoner. This beloved monarch truly wished to be present to all in his kingdom, even to those who were incarcerated. It was reported that when he went to a specific prison in Berlin, he went cell by cell greeting each of the occupants. Everyone who saw their king had the same reactionary speech: “Please, Your Highness, free me from this place for I am innocent and do not belong here!”
You and I can only imagine how old this was getting, over and over again, the echo of entitlement filling the dark and musty hallways. That is, until the last prisoner … The king noticed a very neat and tidy cell at the end of his “state visit.” There, in the corner of this dingy enclosure, was a small, middle-aged man washing what appeared to be a few articles of clothing in a bucket. Of course King Frederick was intrigued.
“You, there!,” he bellowed.
“Yes, yes, Your Majesty,” answered the startled inmate.
“Why are you here?”
The prisoner looked down and said, “I am here because of robbery, Sire.”
“And are you guilty, man?!”
“Yes, Sire,” the prisoner continued, “I am guilty and deserve to be here” as his head humbly sank downward.
AND TO THE SURPRISE of all gathered there, King Frederick reportedly shouted:
“Guards! Remove this prisoner and let him go free. It is certainly not right for this guilty wretch to corrupt all the innocent people in here!”
You and I are on this road of life and encounter all kinds of disappointments and discouragements. We even have to put up with those who do not appreciate us or understand how we struggle in life, sometimes “in quiet desperation.” None of us can really say, “I am totally innocent and do not belong here” — to the point that we are so self-righteous and judgmental of others around us, fellow travelers all.
Life is just too short to lose precious moments or opportunities to express the truth about ourselves even in the most unexpected of moments. No one is suggesting to ignore bad and harmful behavior especially when it is lashed out against one of us. But, I do recommend healthy doses of self-awareness, self- knowledge and self-love (the good kind) every day.
Whatever is true about you is never going to hurt you. Running away from it, certainly will. Everything is going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.
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