“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
– Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
This is the time of year we celebrate our country’s independence. Britain, nor any other country, could charge unfair taxes, tell us what to believe or how to believe. We are free to choose our religion, we have the freedom to speak our opinions about our government without the fear of losing our life, along with many other freedoms.
Why is freedom so important? Does it help us to live happier, more fulfilled lives?
That’s not to say that unlimited freedom and choices makes us happier. With freedom comes responsibility. Laws are intended to protect the whole, not just the individual. Freedom is not for selfish gain, but the opportunity to make choices to make the world a better place, and in the process, to pursue happiness for ourselves.
Many Americans celebrate living in a free country, but many of us do not truly live a life of freedom.
Here are four life areas to consider as we celebrate freedom:
Some of us find satisfaction in what we can do with the money we make from a job, but hate the job itself. Weekends become an escape where we immerse ourselves in consumption because we worked hard and feel we deserve it. Many even go into debt to feed this escape. Or perhaps we believe the money we make makes us feel important. It proves our worth.
Maybe we are just overwhelmed with the bills we have to pay, and don’t have time or energy to consider alternatives.
When Sunday evening comes, we get the Sunday evening blues…
Freedom in Our Labor
We may have a job where we feel our efforts are futile. Contributions go unappreciated, ideas are not listened to, and we don’t see how our efforts are making the world a better place. We feel like a hamster in a wheel. Day after day, drudgery. With freedom comes responsibility, but there is a difference between responsibility and feeling stuck with no options.
Freedom at work helps foster motivation, creativity, and productivity and benefits the company as well as the individual. If you feel stuck in your job, I encourage you to ask yourself in what ways do you feel stuck. Do you tire from the same routine day after day? If so, can you change your routine? Do you find fulfillment in your job role? If not, is there another job you could do within the same company? What steps would you need to take to get there? Or do you feel like your contributions go unappreciated and no one listens to your ideas? Have you considered talking to your boss about it? Is it the leadership? If so, consider becoming the leader you wish you had. Or you may decide to find a job at a company whose values align more closely to yours.
Sometimes certain emotions get in the way of living a life of freedom. Maybe we need validation—if we do something that others won’t approve of, we may lose respect. Or we may feel confused about what it is we want to do. Or perhaps it’s guilt or fear. Oftentimes, it’s just our comfort. We love being comfortable! It’s difficult to do something different. Change can be tough! It’s not comfortable, so we become numb, telling ourselves that what we want is not important. We just keep going, never questioning what we’re doing.
The first step to gaining emotional freedom is first to become mindful of how we’re feeling and taking responsibility for how we feel. Feelings can help us become aware of changes we need to make in ourselves, our lives, or how we relate to others. Other times, these emotions can be unproductive and we need to let it go.
Freedom of Thought and Expression
People talk about “society” and the influence it has on human thought and behavior. Where do these “voices of society” come from and how do we hear these messages? Often these messages come from voices we hear as we grow up (teachers, parents, television, books), and voices we continue to hear (media, friends, family). An example of a message society sends is go to school, go to college (no matter how you’re going to earn money), and get a stable 8-5 job. Get married, buy a house, have children (at least two, but not more than three).
We know we’re doing something outside the norm when we tell someone something, and they look at us like we grew three heads. Then you check yourself to make sure you didn’t say anything offensive, but can’t find anything inherently wrong with what you said. If you get the same look from several people, that’s a sign that society doesn’t agree with your choice.
One year when I was in college, I got one of these disapproving looks. I signed up for a student loan, and they approved me for a lot more than I needed. When I gave the form to the lady, denying the “extra money” she looked at me like I was crazy. She kept asking, “Are you sure that’s all you want? You know you’re approved for more. I need you to sign this saying you’re not taking all the money they approved you for.” Between the crazy looks and the hoops I had to go through to not take on more debt, I questioned my own sanity for a moment.
Americans now owe 1.4 trillion dollars in student loan debt, which is 620 billion dollars more than the total US credit card debt. We’re hearing now about the boomerang generation of young adults who have to move in with their parents just to pay their bills.
Where’s the freedom in that?
We have the freedom to make choices that go along with society’s expectations, but some of those choices don’t lead to freedom—they lead to enslavement.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
This Independence Day, let’s remember those who made sacrifices to allow us to live a life of freedom and to pursue happiness. Let’s live free.
Make a Freedom Resolution
I encourage you to embrace this challenge by making a Freedom Resolution this week.
Some ideas include:
- Create a plan to get out of debt (financial freedom)
- Change your routine (freedom from the hamster wheel)
- Do something outside the norm just for the fun of it (freedom of thought and expression)
- Express your gratitude for freedom and help others find their freedom (share the freedom).
I’d love to hear yours!