People are more than their mistakes

WARNING: Long post that might be hard to read due to weird syntax, but it is a genuine and heartfelt story (to me anyway).

For the last class of this semester, our psychocriminology professor invited his colleague and friend, Daniel Benson, for a conference. He is a slender well-dressed man in his fifties with an ironed red wine shirt and polished black shoes.

He talked about different types of criminals that exist, their motives and background from his experience as a social worker. Daniel likes to punctuate his speech with funny, but true anecdotes of some of his clients. There’s one client in particular whom he knows very well and for a long time. His fictional name is Christian. Let me tell you this man’s story.

Christian was born in Montreal in the 60’s and was raised in a middle class family. They lived happily as a normal family. However, one day, his father left his wife and children for another woman. Christian’s mother was devastated because she saw that man as the love of her life. At that point, the little boy felt like he was now responsible for his mother and sister. A few years later, his mother felt deeply in love with another man. Unfortunately, he was very violent and aggressive. He often beat her. She thought that if they got married he wouldn’t behave like that anymore. So they got married. But the beatings didn’t stop even when she was pregnant of a baby girl. Christian couldn’t bear this violence and often called the cops and his aunts and uncles for help. However, at that time, domestic violence was something private and somewhat taboo. So nobody came to help. When he was 10, he already thought of getting rid of his step-father. For eight years, he held his anger and pain inside of him. Until one day, he snapped. He got a gun and shot two bullets into his stepfather’s head. He got arrested and the court gave him a lifetime sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison.

During the first years, he thought of suicide every day. Not because of his lifetime sentence, but because he killed someone and felt painfully guilty about it. A TV, expensive jewelries, a fancy car could always be replaced, but a dead person could never come back. He also took away his stepsister’s father from her. Luckily for him, he met people who helped him keep faith. His resilience came from books, music, sports, spirituality, volunteering, etc. Those activities gave him the opportunity to forget where he was for a moment and to focus on more positive things. He also got piano lessons from a woman who likes to teasingly call him «her worst student ever». His perseverance and faith helped him shortened his sentence to 17 years.

In 2002, he got out of prison and tried to reintegrate into the society which was extremely difficult. First, everything changed. Technology evolves so quickly that he had to learn how to use a computer, ATM machines, an Ipad, etc. Secondly, he has a criminal record. When he applied everywhere, everyone refused to hire him. With the help of kind people he knew, he became a social worker in community houses. Those places are used to reintegrate criminals into the society. He is very proud of his impact on those people because he truly understand them. With his piano teacher, who already published a few books in the past, he wrote an autobiography.

After 17 years in prison, it is very hard to connect with new people. When he met his new neighbors, an old lovely couple, he feared that when they would learn he was a murderer, they would immediately reject him. Because he couldn’t say directly to them who he really was, he decided to lend them his autobiography. After reading it, it would be obvious for anyone who knew Christian that he was the protagonist. A few days later, the old lady kindly told him she really enjoyed the book and then carefully asked: «But…is this book about you?». He nodded and she approached and warmly hugged him.

Daniel paused and said: «Your professor was my first psychologist I met when I was in prison because… I am Christian. And this is my story.» I was so shocked and every other students gasped as well. He finished his speech with a memorable sentence: «Please remember that people are bigger than their actions and mistakes.»

For some reason, I thought a lot about everything he said for the next few weeks. And I feel like it is something I’m very sensitive about because one of my biggest struggle is to connect with other people. I was raised with the mentality that other people are truly bad and that I should always be careful. So, I always pushed others away, but I always wanted to connect with them at the same time. It is fear that keeps me from connecting with other people and understanding them.

However, I think it is one of the most beautiful things in the world. To deeply connect with other people and care for one and another. This is true happiness and bliss.


November 9, 2014
December 31, 2014



  1. Reply


    December 19, 2014

    None of us are unscarred. All of us deserve grace. Great story.

    • Reply


      December 19, 2014

      Thank you very much 🙂

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