Seeking balance for freedom
Each of us yearns for freedom. We each desire freedom from physical pain The opioid epidemic testifies to this truth. We also seek freedom from emotional pain. Both the divorce rate and the opioid epidemic are witnesses to this. We desire freedom from the oppression of others, such as from slavery. Watch the movie “Sound of Freedom,” and you will discover we have more people in bondage to the slave industry now than previously in history. Our country began with a war to fight for our freedoms, including freedom from an oppressive government and the freedom to practice our faith in the manner we thought best, not dictated by a king.
Is it unbridled freedom, without boundaries? Do I have freedom to cause pain to someone else? Why not, if I have the power to do so? Isn’t it “survival of the fittest?” The lion has freedom to eat the zebra, doesn’t he? This was Hitler’s argument, and no doubt the rationale of organized crime and the slave trade. Clearly, the Moral Law, which places value on every human soul, is being violated when one person oppresses another.
If we find ourselves stuck in behavior patterns which cause pain to others, here are some tips which can help us facilitate freedom to those around us.
Seek freedom for all. Nations are more likely to thrive when freedom is granted (within boundaries) for all their citizens to pursue their interests and be rewarded for their hard work. Our youth are the same, often needing wider exposure to available options before choosing a career path or major in college. Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” however. The danger is always the abuse of the power of some over others, including the government over some of its citizens. All must be heard.
Permit freedom of speech. People want freedom to express themselves. Give them the gift of listening to them, even if you disagree with their beliefs or position. Censoring free speech is a road to totalitarianism, to which writers like Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky testified, and leaders like Stalin and Hitler revealed. An independent press certainly can hold politicians accountable for what they do when not censored. Truthfulness is an essential part of free speech as well.
Pursue freedom to defend oneself. Criminals have the power to hurt us, which will naturally increase when their “freedom” is not hindered by swift consequences that matter. Each individual and family has a need to establish some barrier or hindrance to such injustices. The government, through the police or other law enforcement agency, cannot protect every individual or family in their time of need. This argues for the right to protect oneself and one’s family.
Respect their need for safety. Others become defensive when they feel threatened. Even unintentional oppression through manipulation or forceful expression of your demands hinders the freedom of others. Instead, learn to see things from other’s perspective and stay respectful.
Let go of our past mistakes. These can lead to growth as we embrace the lessons they teach. The inner critic, however, can hold us in bondage to guilt, shame, or anger turned inward. Accept the mistake, listen for the lesson, and let go, so that you may embrace the freedom of increased inner peace. Apologize to others if they are negatively impacted by your mistake.
Let go of the mistakes of others. Your own hurts will grow into anger, followed by retaliation through verbal aggression or passive aggression (even stonewalling or ghosting the person). Understanding the intention of others or the reason for their behavior can help you accept and then let go of the hurt they caused. This is the gift of forgiveness, necessary in all relationships we value.
Pursue truth. Truth sets free. In a world of fake news and power politics, and even “lying with statistics” (a course taught at Temple University when I was there in the 1980’s), truth can be more difficult to find than you might expect. Distorted interpretations lead people to distrust the science. In relationships, listen carefully and ask clarifying questions before reacting defensively and complicating situations further.
Value love. True freedom is the freedom to love in a non-selfish manner. “Agape” love is unconditional and therefore the highest love, more difficult to live out in a world with threats at every turn. Overcoming our fears and letting go of our frustrations seem necessary to break through to freedom to love. God is love, and His perfect love casts out all fear. And love strengthens us to overlook offenses.
Discover spiritual strength. The spiritual disciplines, from prayer to study of sacred scriptures, to fellowship with others pursuing spiritual things, can all bring us closer to the God who is the source of our freedoms. Freedom, truth, love, and the undeserved favor we all need every day have their origin in a God who is always listening to those who seek Him.
Ronald S. Newman, PhD, is a NJ Licensed Psychologist with over 43 years of clinical experience in the mental health field, and 31 years on the mission field of South America. He facilitates the monthly meetings of the Christian Counseling Consortium of South Jersey and the International Encounter of Pastors, Psychologists and Christian Counselors. His website is: www.drronnewman.com, and he can be reached at (609) 567-9022.