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Why Circumstances Do Not Have the Final Word

“Freedom is within me” are the words of Riverman, a character in the story told by don Jose Ruiz in his book, The Wisdom of the Shaman. Before this moment of revelation, the Riverman had been giving his power away by holding resentments and living in the pain of his past. The moment he realized he could release attachment to beliefs that did not serve him, his self-imposed misery ended.

Genuine freedom and happiness are not dependent on outside circumstances. Wanting the facts of life at any given moment to be different from what they are can easily get in the way. A person can be in literal prison and still be more free than another individual who lives free in the world yet feels imprisoned by the circumstances they wish were different. I was reminded of this as I recalled a remarkable man named Clarence Chance, whose story I became familiar with while I practiced criminal defense law. Mr. Chance was framed by the police department and spent 17 years in federal prison for a crime he did not commit. After much legal wrangling, it was determined there was not sufficient evidence to keep him in jail and he was released. He emerged from prison peaceful, content and centered in the presence of God.

An interviewer said to him, “it’s incredible that you have no trace of anger, resentment, or bitterness, yet you’ve been in prison unjustly for 17 years.” Mr. Chance said, “Oh, no. I was in prison for three years. You see, for three years I had resentment, rage, bitterness and an unforgiving heart. Every day I felt locked in and victimized by my circumstances.” Then Clarence Chance had a revelation. He realized he was made in the image and likeness of God and that God was well pleased with him. He came to understand after his three years of anger that if God had brought him to that particular point, that was where God’s glory was supposed to show up for him.

A revelation occurs when Spirit breaks through our limited consciousness, which allows us to grow a lot easier than when we make choices through pain. Every day after that revelation, Mr. Chance began to do his own inner work and he took seriously the belief that his freedom was to be found within. He asked himself, “Where within myself do I have any belief of injustice? Where within myself do I have any unfairness? Where in myself do I believe that resentment and unforgiveness do me any good?” As he worked through these questions and released his negative thoughts he saw a new vision for himself and began to express the God-like qualities of peace, acceptance and forgiveness.

During his last 14 years in prison, he worked with other prisoners to teach them the truth of who they were. Many finished their sentences as new beings, aware that they too were expressions of God. While Mr. Chance’s physical freedom from prison came after having already lived over a decade as an emotionally- and spiritually-free being, upon his release he discovered a new future he would not have seen if he had held onto his unforgiving thoughts.

We are called do this same inner work. Our resentful and suspicious thoughts prevent us from seeing the divine ideas that spirit has sent knocking on our consciousness. Our negative energy drowns out the messages and makes us blind to them, creating our own prison. When we hold on to a negative idea toward another person, an institution, political party, you name it, we cannot see God’s hand in the situation and are restricted by our own limited thinking.

Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore said, “If we try to free ourselves while holding another in bondage with our negative or condemning thoughts, then we cannot demonstrate our own freedom.” No matter what we are going through in life or the circumstances we face, we can experience freedom by living from the realization that “freedom is within.”

Peace and blessings,


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