As part of a ten-day blog challenge, today’s topic invites participants to consider the importance of personal freedom. The poetic coincidence of today’s topic occurring on the the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 inspired a deeper reflection on how we define freedom for ourselves.
The question brought to mind a quote, with attributions to Lord Acton, Abraham Lincoln, and Pope John Paul II, that freedom is “not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.” To me, this reflects the balance between defining personal freedom for ourselves while recognizing how our choices impact our circles of connection within the community and world in which we live.
In my own life I have defined personal freedom by my shifting ability to replace the words “I can’t” with “I choose not to.” Over time this has evolved into empowered choices around that which brings me joy rather than those which feel obligatory. These choices may include commitments requiring time or money, or thoughts influencing my beliefs, and therefore my decisions.
Like many revelations in life, my personal definition of freedom became clear after a sad life-changing event. Several summers ago, I attended a wedding in the Hudson River Valley, and during an early morning walk I felt the most overwhelming wave of joy and peace I had ever felt. It seemed as if nature and events had conspired to make it so. Shortly after acknowledging this feeling on the Sunday morning, I received a phone call that a dear friend had committed suicide the night before. We had planned to meet the following week, and the news broadsided me with a heaviness I had never known. Over the following months, I began to peel back the layers of the life I was living. The incongruence between my values and my choices could no longer be ignored. The caterpillar had entered the cocoon and the inner work began.
Each moment feels pregnant with infinite possibilities if I focus on peace and joy. I forget sometimes, but my feelings always show me the basis of my choices.
It begins with feeling empowered by what I choose to do, the commitments I make, and the words I use.
Can you define what freedom means for you?
Will you make choices to acknowledge that definition?
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