True Freedom

The Fourth of July always seems to make people stop and reflect on the core values of our culture. One of these values is freedom. We talk about political freedom, religious freedom, and economic freedom. Listen to or read any type of media these days and we are told we need more freedom of every conceivable kind. But what do we really mean by freedom?
Webster’s online dictionary gives the main definition of freedom as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action”. This definition seems to have translated into the popular attitude “because I am free I can do anything I like, and if other people don’t like it they are free to leave.” But does that attitude bring anyone peace or contentment? Has telling someone with whom you have suffered a breach of relationship that they can go away if they don’t like what you do ever brought about reconciliation? Does consistently putting your own wants and needs first brought you a feeling of peace or has it only brought a deeper feeling of discontent and restlessness? This discontent should turn us back to God, to seek the true peace of His kingdom, but too often we ignore Him and think that just having more of whatever freedom we crave will satisfy us.
The problem lies in our definition of freedom. Yes, we technically can do anything we want just about any time we want. Missing from this equation is the fact that we are social beings, designed to need God and each other. What must we do to factor the most important people in our lives back into our sense of freedom? Luckily, the Catechism gives us a more complete definition of freedom.
Paragraph 1740 begins by stating that “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, ‘the subject of this freedom” is “an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods.’”
This is directly opposed to the current cultural definition of freedom. Anything does not go, and we cannot have freedom in a me-centered vacuum. When we remember that the “other” is not an impediment keeping us from whatever we want to do in the moment, but a living breathing child of God, just like we are, we will rediscover what true freedom is.
A long time ago, my journalism teacher covered freedom of the press and freedom of speech. He taught the standard of the day which was that we had a responsibility to others, that our freedom must never be used to harm another person.
If we put the needs of other people before our own and work for the common good, I think we may find ourselves freer than we have ever been.

Carol Ann Chybowski

Carol Ann Chybowski

Carol Ann Chybowski is a long time member of the Catholic Writers Guild. She has published book reviews at various websites and appears in two volumes of A Community of Voices: An Anthology of Santa Barbara. When not busy about her parish, Carol Ann can be found knitting, gardening, or on horseback.

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