When I was working with young men in the Texas Youth prison system, one of the things that many of them shared in common was that they had been (or were) members of gangs. I had no experience with what that was all about so my questions were sometimes for my own information and sometimes to make a point with them.
I remember asking a group some questions which started from a point of family. That is, identifying what family relationships were important with the young me and which, if any, were lacking or missing. One thing led to the next and we ended up (not by my design, I don’t think) at a discussion regarding gangs. It was amazing to watch the look of Revelation on one young man’s face when he said something like, “you know, I think I joined a gang because I wanted to feel loved” once he articulated the dysfunction of his own family. Being a member of a gang was a perversion of a legitimate need.
Another time I was talking to a young man who shared in passing something about a time when he and his fellow gang members were preparing for a drive by shooting against another gang in retaliation for something or another. I stopped him and asked, “what does the preparation look like; sitting around with drugs and alcohol, talking about who would drive, who would sit where, who would carry which weapons, etc.?” He said that was about right.
I pressed in on this and tried for figure out why a 15 or 16 year old would be driven to put themselves into harm’s way such as that. What was the motivator? We went back and forth and ended up at purpose . . . it was just what they did because it was an extension of where they focused their attention. It was part of their purpose, in effect, and they really didn’t have anything else to do. They didn’t care about school or work, just gang and street credibility and reputation. Purpose is a legitimate need . . . this was a perversion of something that is inside of all of us.
Much of what we did with those young men was simply to help them identify the lies and deception that had taken control of their lives and introduce them to the Truth and Purpose that they were designed for. It was up to them to change their minds and start walking out of their mess once they had the benefit of Light in the middle of their darkness. They are no different from the rest of us, really, it’s just that the contrast between the deception they buy into versus the Truth is more drastic than the lies and perversions that many of us get caught up in. In either case, the goal is either a pursuit of Truth and Freedom or not . . . we have that choice and also have the consequences or benefits of whatever we pursue.