Right now, in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom, many People-of-Faith are organizing to assert and protect our first and most cherished freedom, the Freedom of Religion which, although a universal human right, is legally enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
But with all this talk in the press about “freedom,” it might be useful to consider a few questions. Namely; “What is ‘freedom’ anyway?” And, “Are you free?”
Freedom vs. License
On the question of what is freedom, this is one of those areas where, at least historically, psychologists, philosophers and theologians (if not the general public) tend to agree. As a rule, most people think that freedom means the ability to do whatever I feel like I want to do. But that isn’t actually freedom. That’s called, “license.”
A popular example is James Bond’s famous, “License to Kill” which gives him the right to not only kill, but cause all manner of mayhem and destruction without fear of consequence. While few, if any, of us have a license to kill, many people do act as if being true to themselves means having a license to follow whatever path their feelings want to take them down. But this “license to follow one’s feelings” isn’t true freedom at all, and while feelings can be a source of wisdom, the commitment to the emotionally-driven life characterized by license can wreak its own kind of destruction in the lives of those who practice it.
By contrast, true freedom, is the ability to be your best self in every moment regardless of what your feelings–or anything or anyone else is pressuring you to be.
Think about it. If I always have to do what my feelings tell me to do, am I free? If I always have to eat everything you put in front of me, am I free? If I always lash out every time I get angry, am I free? If I must do whatever you tell me, not because I recognize that you are giving me good counsel but rather out of fear of losing your approval, am I free? Of course not.
Freedom, then, is the ability to be my best self–to do what it right, good, true and healthy at all times regardless of the internal or external pressures I am facing. Any time I am not able to be my best self, I have surrendered my freedom. I have, on some level, chosen to be less free.
Are you free? When do you surrender your freedom and why?
In my next post, we’ll look at what Eric Fromm called the “Escape from Freedom.” We’ll discover why people tend to choose Control/Manipulation, Self-destruction and Conformity over authentic freedom, and we’ll look at what it takes to break free of the chains that hold you back.
(*I was in the hospital for severe, acute, pancreatitis and ultimately had my gall bladder removed for good measure. It was an ugly, horrible, painful experience, and I couldn’t be happier to be past it. Thanks for your patience during my recovery)
Woman at the beach photo available from Shutterstock.
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From Psych Central's website:
Are You Free? (Part II) Escape from Freedom. | Faith on the Couch (July 5, 2012)
Last reviewed: 28 Jun 2012