How do you know when you’ve changed?

I’m teaching the part of my course where we address the $64,000 question:  Have you ever been convicted of a felon?

It’s the question that all ex-offenders fear.  The deal-breaker.  The interview-ender.

My counsel is that it doesn’t have to be. Not if you answer it truthfully, take responsibility and explain how you’re turned your life around.  It’s the turning part that’s difficult for many of my students.  How can you be sure that you’ve really made that internal change and you’re not going to fall back into old patterns?

In a column in the Philadelphia City Paper, re-entry specialist Justina Fox says she can tell when an offender “is ready to move on.”

She introduced the columnist to Rob, who used to burglar unsuspecting college students, but has now become a barber thanks to training he got in prison and she believes, truly changed his ways.   Here’s what he has to say:

“I’m in the trust business,” Rob says, “where you learn how to care about people. Maybe they don’t get the best or sharpest haircut, but I give them honest and good service. When you forget about the money, that’s when you’ll make it. You live with that every moment of your life. There’s not a moment that I can slip and lose consciousness of what I need to do. People will trust you if you trust yourself.”

Wise words, I think.

How will you know when you’ve changed?  Or how did you know?

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