Talking Talking Talking Behind Bars

Expatiate:  (1) to write or talk too much; enlarge (on).  (2) to roam without restraint; wander at will.  (The World Book Dictionary)24159-one-of-the-most-sincere-forms-of-respect-is-actually-listening

Exspatiari means “to wander from a course” and, in the figurative sense, “to digress.” But when English speakers began using “expatiate” in 1538, we took “wander” as simply “to move about freely.” In a similar digression from the original Latin, we began using “expatiate” in a figurative sense of “to speak at length.”  (Merriam-Webster)

Our group yesterday doing some training with Prison Fellowship International (Philippines) in Jail Ministry. We (our group, Bukal Life Care) train chaplains, so we have done jail ministry before, but our strength is more in hospitals and community. So, we wanted to talk to experts before returning to this specific ministry.

We were told that at one of the jails (one that we hope to join PFI-P in) has numerous religious groups that come in. Several evangelical Christian groups go there. The Roman Catholics go there. The Jehovah’s Witness go there. The Muslims go there. The Iglesia ni Cristo (a local somewhat Christian-ish religion) goes there. For all of those groups, there method is pretty simple. Go in there for their allotted time and preach preach preach.

Our friend estimated (not sure if he worked this out precisely) that at that jail, the inmates get about 3 hours of religious preaching a day.

I don’t know about you, but if that is accurate, this certainly counts as CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT. Add to that that each are preaching often very different messages. From the standpoint of each individual group, they may see it as speaking to the inmates simply a couple of hours a month, or maybe once a week.

…. But consider the position of the inmate. Religious people come in and talk and talk and talk to them. Their messages are supposed to come from God… but the messages are all different. Day after day after day. Expatiation is about talking too much and having talks that wander or are disconnected. From the inmate position, that is exactly what they are getting.

A better suggestion is not simply to talk, but to listen. Inmates need healing and demonstration of God’s love, not cognitive arguments to cancel out the cognitive arguments of the person who preached earlier in the day. They also don’t need demagoguery to cancel out the demagogues they heard before or will hear after. Inmates need to be heard and the conversation should be driven from their felt needs (with of course one eye on what they, additionally, really need). They need dialogue, not simply excessive and inconsistent monologue

A good article on the power of listening is given by Tim Eyre. It can be read HERE

Read it yourself, but he mentions certain things you tell people when you listen to them:

  • You value other people and their opinion.
  • You value other people’s time. (Being trapped in jail is no justification for disrespecting their time)
  • You are an intelligent and thoughtful person able to hear and consider multiple points of view. (We all need to learn from each other.)
  • You have important things to say. (The more you talk, the more you devalue what you say. If you say less, the less you say will have more import.)
  • You are mature and professional. (Children, politicians, and (often) preachers like to talk without listening. Inmates don’t need that)

Besides if you listen, you are more likely to be listened to anyway. That may not be the most righteous motive… but it still is relevant… if you have a message you want heard.






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