Freedom. A word I often hear invoked with a sense of honor and reverence, sometimes with tribalism and entitlement. I hear it discussed as a binary like a switch that is on or off, as if one can be free or not free. Some call the west the “free world” as if we owned freedom… or at least branded, packaged and marketed it.
It’s About Balance
And yet, it is clear that most who use this word don’t fathom what freedom is or does. According to both ancient wisdom and my own experience, freedom is something that is valuable as a balancing agent to the overwhelm of limitation. But it has a darker influence when expressed beyond that point of balance. Freedom over-expressed becomes the ability to go too far. And the impacts and consequences of this imbalance can be far reaching, devastating and even fatal.
Freedom is something that is valuable as a balancing agent to the overwhelm of limitation.
Narcissism. Cyber bullying. Teen suicide. Mass shootings. Let’s take a moment to consider how all of these bloom from the seeds of freedom gone too far… a lack of empathy, accountability and responsibility. Well, maybe it is easier to start on the other end of this line.
Responsibility & Accountability
Life. Liberty. Happiness. Success. Prosperity. None of these equates to freedom. Each implies resilience, personal responsibility and accountability. Even further, these require a recognition of the intrinsic value of others. Here, freedom is tempered by the awareness and acknowledgment that one’s choices create outcomes that others are affected by. We are all in this together, and anyone’s ability to live and love requires others to have the opportunity to pursue the same things according to their unique sense of self. Ultimately, the good things in life come about when freedom and empathy balance by valuing the service of self AND others.
Freedom vs. Limitation
Freedom lives on a spectrum with limitation. It is a relative state. Those bound by limitation would understandably pursue freedom as a remedy to achieve balance. When we feel crushed by things outside our control, we want to break free. However, unchecked freedom in the extreme can get expressed as some of the worst aspects of human nature. This is a big part of why our modern global culture is so sick.
Power Without Wisdom
We haven’t yet developed the collective wisdom to temper the freedoms that technology provides. Example: Technology has provided the freedom to indulge in anonymity (aka freedom from responsibility and accountability for our words and actions) on the Internet. Anonymity isn’t wrong, but so many chose to use this to harm others, especially when the payoff includes quantifiable symbols of attention: Likes. Follows. Hearts. The currencies of “influence” (infamy?). And the algorithms social networks design to keep us engaged produce echo chambers and feedback loops where we see our expressions repeated back at us in various forms, amplifying mediocrity while diminishing uniqueness and diversity.
Facebook. Twitter. 8 Chan. All these represent points on a freedom continuum where the worst outcomes come from the dynamic of personal identity vs. virtual or disposable identity. The sense of self is perverted when we diminish responsibility and accountability… when we don’t have to witness or be accountable for the consequences of our expressions.
Empowerment: Healing the Balance
As one whose vocation is empowerment, I see the work I do is changing. In many ways, the sickness that I often help people heal from is becoming more routine. People are inverted, wholly preoccupied with external feedback to the point where the true self is hidden and mostly forgotten.
Fortunately, the solution is still there inside us. It is who we have always been, but we have lost the ability to recognize ourselves in all the noise the outside world provides. And there are many tools to cure this inversion. It all begins with the simple choice to pursue the truth that can only be found within. And once found, express this truth through the accomplishment of our unique purpose. We then become agents of change, portals for others to do the same.
The truth sets us free to be who we have always been. The Light is always there for those with the courage to seek it within. Amen.