In the U.S., we say we are “the land of the free.” The lyrics of our songs, extoll the virtues and necessity of freedom: Let freedom ring. Sing your freedom, because there’s nothing in the world like freedom, freedom of speech / freedom to say / freedom to think / this is my lucky day.
We assume the rights of freedom and debate its boundaries in politics, yet how often do we take time to reflect on what freedom means to us personally?
Freedom is not a concept carved from stone; it is malleable and personal, always shifting shape depending on where you find yourself standing and the angle of the slanting light.
My personal definition of freedom is the ability to act based on my convictions without external restriction or retribution. It is the ability to represent myself as I see myself to be, not having to hide or disguise who I am in order to pursue happiness, fulfillment, and growth. It is the power of free self-expression. Personal freedom is one of my top three values.
Of course, there are boundaries to freedom. My actions should not hurt others or restrict their personal freedoms, and so this is the dance of conscience. Will what I want conflict with what others want or need? If so, how can I have the personal autonomy I need while respecting the freedom of those around me? I believe there is always a path for mutual free expression, when we respect one another.
Today, as we prepare to celebrate our country’s independence, I offer the following quotes as food for thought and as writing prompts:
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” ― William Faulkner
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” ― Noam Chomsky
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre
“The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.” ― Carrie Jones
And I leave you with these questions:
- Which, if any, of these quotes resonate with you?
- What do you believe about freedom and how do you describe or define it for yourself?
Please share your thoughts on Freedom — leave a comment.