According to Dictionary.com freedom is the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. It is the exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc., or the power to determine action without restraint. Freedom, in its broadest use covers a wide range of applications from total absence of restraint to merely a sense of not being unduly hampered or frustrated.
I value freedom. I think we all do, yet we make decisions each and every day in our freedom that can diminish our freedom. People are free to use drugs, steal, lie, cheat, and any number of other poor decisions. We are all free to make any decision we want. What we are not free to do is determine the consequences of those decisions. Even God says that we are free to do whatever we want but understand that the things we choose to do may not end well.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.”
(1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Therefore, freedom is a wonderful thing. It’s a great thing to have, but only when practiced the right way. Freedom has some restrictions. True and lasting freedom has a brake, some boundaries, and some consideration for other people. We live in a me-first society that touts its freedom without any regard for other people. That’s what the verses above state. You and I are free to decide to do whatever we want to do, no matter how foolish the choice is, however just because you can do something does not mean you should. And when we choose to practice our freedom, make sure that we are not putting others in a bad position. True freedom is found inside boundaries.
If you don’t believe me, just watch football this weekend. The players are free to play and make a lot of money when the game stays in bounds. If they can’t play the game by the rules, they won’t play. But when the game is played by the rules, players are free to enjoy the potential rewards of football. Are they free to break the rules? Yes. But their freedom will be short-lived.
Several weeks ago, my wife and I were traveling down a road in town. The speed limit was 45 miles per hour. Soon, two large black pickup trucks came up behind us traveling at very high speeds and weaving in and out of traffic with no regard for anyone else on the road. These drivers were reckless. They were practicing their freedom to dangerously speed and race down the road, placing others in harm’s way. When the trucks stopped at a traffic light, I pulled up beside them, got out of my car and proceeded to lecture them on their foolish actions right in the middle of the road.
While their actions were foolish, some might consider mine to be just as foolish, by approaching a vehicle with no knowledge of how the drivers might respond to me. I would argue that I practiced my freedom out of concern for others, while these young men practiced their freedom with zero concern for others.
While we may have the freedom to do things, hang with people, or go places without restraint, it does not mean that I should do it. Freedom for the sake of freedom is not wise. Freedom must be accompanied by maturity, wisdom, humility, honesty, and a consideration for others.
Quite often, we make decisions that harm our long term emotional and mental health. We choose to hang out with the wrong people, overeat and become obese, put things in our bodies we have no business putting in them, watch and listen to things that harm our minds, dwell on things we cannot change, or spend too much money and fail to plan for the future. I could continue with a list of bad decisions that harm us bad. Yet, many will continue to do things because they can. What will truly define us as people are the things that we say “NO” to with regards to our freedoms more than the things we say “yes” to.
I love my freedom. I value my freedoms of time, money, relationships, and purpose more than anything. Therefore, I say “no” to a lot of things in order to preserve these freedoms. The more I say “no” the more I freedom I have.