We hear this word often and in many contexts. What does it mean? Well, if we start with the dictionary, depending on which one you consult, you’ll find 11 or more definitions. If you asked 100 different people, you might get just that many definitions. It becomes obvious that it means different things to different people and even different things to the same people in different areas of their lives.
The United States of America was founded on the acquiring and retaining of personal freedoms by people from different countries. They sought relief from the oppression of those in control of their government who sought to deny them freedom of religion, political point-of view, etc. So they traveled to a “new” country to begin a new life with freedoms they were denied where they came from. This continues today.
What people tend to forget is that with freedom comes responsibility. Although the word itself may imply it’s “free,” there is a price for freedom, no matter what aspect of it you might speaking of. Even those freedoms granted to us in our Constitution might disappear, if we don’t recognize how precious they are and how quickly some might try to take them from us for their own power and glory. It is our responsibility to see that doesn’t happen. There are many ways to do that, depending on what we’re talking about, even if it’s just the regular use of those freedoms.
When you apply the word freedom more personally, you might first want to take a look at the synonyms that speak to its meaning: liberty, autonomy, self-determination, independence, choice, free will; also frankness, openness, free expression, candor; as well as inventiveness. I mention this because I wonder how many of us are the ones who deny ourselves freedom? How many are afraid to be open and frank; to freely express themselves? Why is that? How many fear being independent or truly believe they have no right to make a choice? Again, why is that?
The opposite of freedom, according to the dictionary, is restriction, inhibition, conformity. Somewhere, back in our pasts, is a parent, teacher, boss, or peer who helped to ingrain in us the exact opposite of freedom, in one or more of its forms. Now, we have forgotten our responsibility to maintaining freedom – starting with ourselves.
For me, with my Aquarius rising in my chart, I have always been quite a rebel, “Don’t tell me what to do!” Even I have had certain parts of my personal freedoms suppressed and had to consciously take years to regain them. It’s lead me to realize that fear is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, obstacles to freedom. Why? Well, let’s talk about the fear of disapproval; of being shunned because of being “different;” of actual punishment, in some form, for non-conformity. Fear causes us to conform rather than be who we really are. It causes us to inhibit ourselves from speaking our personal truth. It causes us to restrict our words and actions thus causing us to stifle the real person within. It ultimately makes us miserable, feeling hopeless in some cases.
I had come to a place where it was more important for me to like who I was than to fear what others would think of me. Perhaps some of it was discovering a spiritual path that encourages personal freedom, re-empowering yourself by becoming/being your true self. Our one law, which I know I’ve mentioned before, but here it is again: “Do as thou wilt, and ye harm none.” If I have no intention of harming anyone, including myself, with my thoughts, words, or deeds, then there is nothing to stop me from being exactly who I am. I think that’s key. My freedom must not require the taking of your freedom, in any way. Otherwise, it’s not truly freedom. Freedom is freedom for all, not just a few at the cost of freedom of others.
I’ve come to a point in my life, as I get ready to turn 73, where I’ve taken a good hard look at what freedom means for me as I continue to age. Unlike others, who look to their children to take care of them as they grow older (and I pass no judgment on that as we all have our individual journeys), I find that my inner rebel is still alive and well. There’s no way I could allow my daughter or grandchildren to take over my care. The same holds true for home healthcare workers or staff in a nursing facility. If I can’t continue to take care of myself, then my personal freedom has been lost – in my mind. The day I can no longer safely drive a car to take myself to the grocery store to shop, then my personal freedom has been lost. If I get to a point where I can no longer walk without assistance, then, once again, bye-bye freedom.
I know there will be those who want to counter my statements with arguments and suggestions. As I said, all of our journeys are individual and freedom means many different things to different people. I’ve discovered what it means for me personally. What now? Well, if these things means so much to me, if they spell out the meaning of freedom for me, then I have a responsibility to do anything and everything necessary not to lose them. It really is that simplistic, even though the details may be more complicated. The responsibility is mine…no one else’s.
When you look at the freedoms that affect us collectively, you’re still looking at individual responsibility in keeping them alive. Never take any freedom for granted and never assume someone else will make sure it endures. To do so means one day you may awaken to the reality that freedom is gone. That would be a very sad day indeed.
May freedom be yours, in whatever form it takes for you, now and all your days to come!
Love & Blessed Be