One of the biggest challenges we have when it comes to freedom is that what freedom looks like to me may not be what freedom looks like for you. That’s not a challenge in the sense of it being bad that we each like different things and want different things in our lives (that can be a very good thing), the challenge comes in when my freedoms take away or block your freedoms, or I try to take away your freedoms for no reason. The US Constitution talks about the freedom of speech for example. It wouldn’t be much of a freedom if it said that only politicians were allowed to speak freely and not their constituents or reporters.
But at the same time there does have to be a line drawn somewhere because, in an extreme example, we can’t have people who love killing others to be free to do that, because then their victims aren’t free to live their lives. So how do we find that right ground, or can we? Most would say we haven’t found that middle ground yet because there are still parts of the world that are under extreme laws and restrictions and face death on a regular basis. And there’s only so much we can do to change their minds about the value of people having freedoms, especially the freedom to be different. We also can’t force everyone to behave and not kill, steal, hurt or do evil, we can only encourage everyone to be respectful of everyone else.
I don’t have to like your freedoms, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t respect you and give you the ability to state your opinions or do your own thing. I don’t have to like that you have certain spiritual beliefs, I don’t have to like that you enjoy hunting, and I don’t have to enjoy that you love going skiing, but that doesn’t mean that I have any right to be violent or nasty towards you for liking those things, because I want you to be nice towards me when I like things that you don’t like. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have conversations about and try to persuade each other to change those choices, because we certainly can. But it does mean being willing to step outside of our comfort zone to allow others to be free to be who they are, so that we can be who we are.
This week I encourage you to think about the impact that your actions have on others. Are you giving people the freedoms to be themselves or are you trying to fit them into your preferred preferences?
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela