What is Freedom?

Everyone has his or her idea of freedom. Each of us possesses a unique and very personal notion of freedom be it something we have or something we yearn to have. When people align with each others ideas of freedom, this creates tribes or communities.

Our political landscape uses freedom to promote a parties agenda, but ultimately, but agenda is motivated by some form of freedom. The fighting is always about freedom: financial freedom, national or sovereign freedom, the freedom of a nation’s people to pursue their hopes and dreams with minimal limitations, inner freedom, religious freedom, or the freedom to live in peace, not under threat, tyranny, or oppression. Freedom is directly related to the collective and thus to government.

Each example represents a form of freedom, and yet freedom stretches beyond any one of them. This is proven when people obtain one form of freedom, they often begin seeking another form. The professional who finally obtains financial freedom, now seeks freedom of time. The freedom from leaving a war zone or oppression gives rise to the freedom of expression.  This is our clue about the bigger story of freedom.

Freedom is the cry of the human soul. Beginning as toddlers, we want what we want. Nationally, our freedom is based on the ability to want and pursue what makes us happy. This is actually pretty good, but we all see the problem in execution, because we all want to pursue something different. Religious and institutional freedom tries to control personal freedoms. Personal freedoms can disrupt or derail the freedoms of others. Corporate freedoms impact the freedom of societies. Governmental freedom has the power to empower and diminish all freedoms. Isn’t this the climate that frustrates us so much?

Summing up: we all innately desire  aspects of freedom. We all possess some bits of freedom while we lack others. If we don’t get the freedom we want, we experience some form of oppressionAND THAT IS THE KEY.

We’re not pursuing freedom as much as we’re fleeing oppression. Most people see the avoidance of suffering and making the world a better place as two endeavors. Most squander their freedom on themselves, plundering the world rather than transforming it. This kind of living is the negation of life; and is a base form of existence known as survival.

Only the very fortunate can possess a level of freedom beyond existence. To pursue ideals indicates that a person has experienced some measure of inner freedom. Those without external freedoms are often the first to develop inner freedom; it’s the path of deep spirituality. Those with external freedoms tend to diminish inner freedoms. This is why the young rich leader was so disheartened after meeting Jesus (Luke 18:23). Power easily corrupts us without this internal counterbalance.

Freedom then, is something we can possess, but for most is narrowly missed. Instead we mistakenly get entangled in the scrimmages for freedom because we have been converted to the notion that we have to fight for it or defend it. If life is a zero sum game then war is inevitable. If life and freedom are generative, then living them out is their course of expansion. Wisdom tells us that forgoing a measure of personal freedom, actually enlarges our capacity for greater freedoms. Every parent knows this: freedom potentiates through sacrifice and shrinks in selfishness. Thus the only fight for freedom is the one within each of us and whether we will sacrificially extend freedom to another.

Let’s test this in our cars. Will you extend freedom to a merging car into your lane? Or will you close the gap and defend your right to freely be in front? We must access the heart level or we miss freedom entirely. Giving up a car length takes much more than we think because it requires us to see others as ourselves. The moment we do this, we are as free as any person can ever be. If we can transform our commute, we can transform our world. Freedom starts within us.