There are two kinds of freedom: the first argues that freedom belongs solely to individuals, that the individual is free to act, and to posses, and to pursue happiness for him or herself without limits from any one or any thing outside of the self. The second kind recognizes that there are limits to freedom in the context of the fact that we live and act in the world with others. In this second sense, one freely chooses to act and speak within those limits, recognizing that when one’s desired free actions or words infringe on, deny, or do damage to the freedom of another, one must not pursue them. One must say no to one’s self. Which of these two is most free?
The Christian faith teaches that we must “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is the message of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus models how we should treat one another and asks us to imitate Him. Freedom, for a Christian, means always acting in ways that promote the good of the other. We are to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus who says to us: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay one’s life down for his friends…What I command you is to love one another.” John 15:12-13, 17
This message flies in the face of those who would claim freedom only for themselves without regard to others. The world is noisy with the clamorous demands of this false sense of freedom. In book 6 of The City of God Augustine writes: “Stupidity glories in never yielding to the force of truth.” To live outside of the true sense of freedom is to live in a world wild with absurdity. All that falls short of Jesus’ commandment to love one another is absurd.
Those who live in that first kind of freedom take themselves all too seriously and will accept no limits, no critique. They know not how to laugh. Those who live the latter sense of freedom recognize the absurdity of limitless liberty and laugh at their own errors and forgive themselves and others. The first sense of freedom is rooted in pride; the second is rooted in humility. Choose, then, to be truly free; love one another.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.