Sunday, July 03, 2011

Are You Free?

Right now, the USA is celebrating Independence Day.  On the radio today, I heard someone reciting the lyrics to the song "God Bless the USA," and after hearing the line "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free," I started thinking about freedom, and what it really means.  I also asked myself whether or not I'm really as free as I assume that I am - not as an American, but as a human being.

I looked up the definition of "freedom" and found the following definition:

1. The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

The old standby arguments came to mind first:  "I can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theatre."  "I can't raid bank vaults."  I must not really be totally free.

But after turning it over in my head a few more times, I realized that I actually CAN do those things... I just have to want to do them enough to be willing to subject myself to the consequences.  And I don't.  Most of us don't.

However, each of us has things that we feel compelled to do despite the hefty price tag.  For some, it's refusing to remain silent when speaking out is going to make us very unpopular (to say the least).  For others, it's leaving the (real or perceived) comfort of our long-time job, home, or town to reach for the mere possibility of something greater.  Still others make sacrifices for the comfort and care of loved ones who are unable to care for themselves.

There is no way to be free without opening your mind, opening your heart, and opening your hands.  When you are open, things leave you, but new things come to you.  To me, freedom is this: knowing that at any given moment, as long as there is breath in your body, you can choose which road to take.  You can choose to advance, or to stand down.  Freedom is not simply the ability to act, it is the ability to choose which course of action  or non-action to take at a particular time.  And, to use a Dr. Phil quote that I LOVE: "When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence."

Freedom comes from within.  Former South African president, Nelson Mandela was held in a 16 sq. ft. cell (5 sq. meters) for 27 years.  His body was imprisoned, but because his heart and mind remained free, he was able to choose his course of action.  In doing so, he started a chain of events that began the healing of a nation that had long been divided.

Freedom = choice, and choice= power.  Even when you feel small, you are POWERFUL.

How will you use your power today?  And what are you willing to sacrifice in order to be free?

I'd love to hear what you have to say.

--Nicole

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