Just saying the word freedom invokes images of patriotism and American flags waving majestically in the wind. Indeed, freedom was one of the guiding principles of the founding fathers of the United States (even if they didn’t do it perfectly). Freedom from the tyranny of a monarchy was one of the driving forces of the American Revolution. More recently, freedom has again become a hot button issue.
When I hear the word freedom, I immediately think of the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Steven Covey. In that book, he tells the story of Viktor Frankl, a neurologist, philosopher and a holocaust survivor. Frankl argues that we are all free all the time: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
What a statement coming from a man who has endured some of the most horrific evils this world has ever seen. Many times when we hear people claiming their right to freedom it is a claim to the right to do or be “less.” Freedom to be more greedy. Freedom to be in control. Freedom to do and have what I want. But the type of freedom that Frankl and other philosophers describe is a freedom that allows you to do and be more.
Frankl describes the freedom to choose our response to any circumstance and situation. In this way, we are all always free. The most noble type of freedom is the kind that uses freedom for others. We are free. Free to be more generous than expected. Free to be humble when we realize we cannot control our surroundings. Free to do and be what others might need.
Is this a new or different way to look at freedom? Since the words freedom and faith have been disturbingly intertwined with politics in recent days, let’s take a look back 2000 years ago to what Paul wrote to the Galatians in the Bible shortly after the time of Jesus: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery” (5:1). Paul was onto something when he talks about the slavery to human expectations. Further on he says:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve on another humbly in love.Paul (Gal 5:13)
In the United States of America, we are free. But according to these philosophers and books (including the Bible), we are always free. When it comes to family, friendships, the workplace, politics, vaccines, policies, mandates, everything… we are free. How do we use our freedom? What choices and behaviors does our freedom create? Do we react to unwanted circumstances with the freedom to choose our response? Does our freedom benefit ourselves or others?
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