Earlier today, I saw a question posted on Quora.com.

The question follows: In what moment did you realize that your friend wasn’t as good of a person as you had thought them to be?

I’m answering this question much differently today than I would have on February 25, 2007.

On February 25, 2007, I pled guilty to a white-collar crime. The guilty plea eventually lead to an 18 month prison term.

With my bad decisions (that I fully own), came significant and well deserved fallout. Part of that fallout included myriad Department of Justice press releases.

Certainly, the DOJ press releases were horrific for my family and me to read, but also incredibly satisfying for victims of my crime. Public pillory is alive and well—you will get no complaints from me; I earned it!

Part of the fall out of a federal conviction includes the loss of friends, including the potential fallout of some close friends.

In one instance, someone whom I thought was a very good friend and supporter forwarded my Department of Justice (DOJ) press release around to some people.

“Hope he doesn’t drop the soap lol! Too bad, too sad,” he wrote above the press release then hit forward.

The DOJ press release was sent to a handful of people, then somehow made its way to me.

He later apologized and said that he sent it without thinking it through. I could relate to making decisions without thinking them through.

After reading that email he forwarded on February 25, 2007, I could answer that perhaps he wasn’t as good a friend as I had imagined. I was going through a lot of pain (that I alone created) and I didn’t appreciate supposed good friends piling on.

Today, on June 9, 2021, I see it differently. Or I should say I began to see it differently after I self surrendered to federal prison.

People forgave me for terrible decisions I have made. In this case, this disappointing message from a friend, doesn’t even remotely compare to bad mistakes I’ve made throughout my life. So I chose to forgive him, as others forgave me.

In federal prison, I realized that perhaps he was wondering how my conviction may impact his life, his reputation. He may have been upset that I wasn’t fully open with him about what was transpiring in my life. He would have been right. Perhaps he was trying to process it— after all no one in our circle had ever gone to federal prison. I was the first and it was a lot for people to digest.

My friend and I corresponded from prison and our friendship remains strong till this day. It was a small bump in a friendship that has lasted for 20 years.

Forgiveness is healthy and one that I’ve asked from others. It would have would terrible for me to treat or judge others differently than I would like to be treated. For that reason, when my friend asked me to forgive him, I said of course.

Justin Paperny

P.S. To learn more about my journey through federal prison, grab a copy of Lessons From Prison.