Life ‘on the outside’ is scary

In the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption, a character named Red (played by Morgan Freeman) speaks to new inmate Heywood (William Sadler) about a prisoner who’s been serving there a long time…

“The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used-up con with arthritis in both hands. Couldn’t even get a library card if he applied. You see what I’m saying?
These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes… you get so you depend on them.
They send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.”


The film is a fascinating insight into the impact of imprisonment. It shows how, even when ‘free’, some inmates prefer their old life. They’re so used to the prison routine that they don’t know how to live anywhere else.

I think we can all relate to this on some level. There might be areas of our life where we’re entrapped, imprisoned. But the prospect of change is terrifying. Life outside the walls might be less consistent, less ‘safe’ – and breaking free might make us feel more caged-in than ever before. We’re afraid of the unknown – the unfamiliar – so we remain in our shell. Unmoving.

Victims of abuse can suffer from this mentality. As the quote says, first they hate it, then they get used to it – then they might, in a strange way, depend on it. Abuse is the only reality they’ve ever known. In the worst cases, the victim becomes a perpetrator too because they’ve never understood the pattern they are in.

When true freedom doesn’t seem so ‘liberating’, we are stuck. When old ways become the only way, we are frozen.

Only when we unlock the door, dream about the possibilities outside, and dare to step out – do we find there’s a whole other world out there. We don’t have to be victims of our past. We don’t have to stay entrapped. There are always people who can help us find courage – and wings.


  1. This is wonderful, and I’m so glad to connect with you again. As for the movie’s theme– as I understand it, that’s exactly why the rate of recidivism is so high; prison life is structured, which offers some a sense of security they don’t have in the real world. God bless you (Caddo)

    1. Hi Caddo, and lovely to see you here again πŸ™‚
      Yes that makes sense – it would be a catch 22. You would want to create structure for the sake of a smooth-running routine, but not make it too ‘comfortable’ for inmates…

      1. I think we all need structure–I know I do, and when I left blogging I really missed the structure that gave to my day. The days were emptier–so I’m glad to be back in the groove! I must say I love your photo–you are GORGEOUS, dear sister.

      2. Yes… The small parts of our day make up the whole don’t they. When we take something out, we feel a loss/ disappointment – unless that thing was a burden of course.
        I’m glad you’re back too πŸ™‚
        And thank you for saying so!

  2. Amen, my friend! The past can be a prison – great post here about leaving that behind and having the courage to get busy living (as the movie quote goes) ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying.’ Choosing the former instead of the latter is the way to go, for sure! Have a great day.

  3. It’s a bit shocking how prison can be something we need, something we depend on. I can identify with that though. So used to the way things have been going that stepping out is scary and the prison is home! By God’ s grace that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Thanks Ali for a great post.


    1. It is shocking, I agree. When ‘prison’ is the only home we’ve ever known, it can be hard to run towards the green grass, where God resides.
      Yes, so thankful for his grace πŸ™‚
      Thanks Rolain.

  4. The past is always comfy, even when the past is unpleasant. Reminds me of the children of Israel. Enslaved four hundred years, then set free by the miraculous hand of God …. only to long for a return to the leaks and onions of Egypt.

    (I like the updated photo too!)

    1. Well said Richard – so true!
      Yes – they didn’t really understand or embrace freedom, even when it was handed to them on a platter. It’s sad that we long for a return to yesterday when tomorrow promises to be so much brighter.

  5. Beautiful post , dear Ali! Praying for the courage to ask for help and step out and away from anything He doesn’t want for me. God bless you and your sweet family!

    1. Thanks Debbie! Praying that with you. We all need a dose of courage to move out of complacency/familiarity, or unhealthy places. So glad He walks out with us!

  6. I enjoyed this movie, though it’s been years since I’ve seen it. I hadn’t thought about it, but our past really can be like a prison- a comfort zone that can keep us from growing.

    1. I’m so glad Denise – thank you.
      May we each be aware of our own comfort zones, and allow God to guide us out of them if needs be πŸ™‚

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