'Do You Feel You've Been Rehabilitated?'
It allowed him to truly be himself and say what he really felt, not what he thought the board hoped to hear.
There’s a scene near the end of "The Shawshank Redemption" where Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, steps in front of a parole board, who will determine whether his years behind bars have “rehabilitated” him for his release.
In Red’s first two appearances, he eagerly explained that he had changed, that he was ready to rejoin society and was sorry for his crime. He was rejected twice.
This third time, Red tries a different approach. He first questions what “rehabilitated” even means. “I think it's a made-up word, a politician's word,” he says. “A word so young fellas like you can wear a suit and tie and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?”
“Rehabilitated? That's a b------t word,” he adds. “So, you just go on ahead and stamp that form there, sonny, and stop wasting my damn time. Truth is, I don't give a s--t.”
Red is granted parole.
It was a brazen approach that would seemingly run counter to natural instinct. How could you talk that way to people who control your fate? Why use profanity to the group you want to persuade?
Well, Red had reached the point of indifference, which is sometimes far better than caring too much. It allowed him to truly be himself and say what he really felt, not what he thought the board hoped to hear. Individual expression can be a frightening prospect if we’re not prepared to handle the ramifications, but there is great liberation in it if we are. Red was.
He also read between the lines of what the board was actually asking. The question wasn’t really about being rehabilitated. They were far more interested in gauging his maturity level and emotional intelligence. By challenging conventional norms in a way few other prisoners likely had, he was able to prove he’d been “rehabilitated” more than a straight answer ever would have.
As we navigate the endless challenges of our leadership worlds, let’s keep these lessons from the movie in mind. What is the question really about? How might we improve our chances of achieving a desired outcome if we cared a little less? How can we differentiate ourselves from the masses in trying to achieve a particular result?
Our answers to these may be the key to getting out of mental prison.