Since we have the freedom to choose our actions, even in the worst of situations, we are responsible to ourselves for how we live our lives – and, depending on our beliefs, ultimately responsible to God. To live conscious of one’s responsibility leads to both good and bad feelings. We are human and, as life has shown over and over again, fallible. We don’t live a good life because we are in a constant state of happiness – as if it is possible to have happy feelings all day long every day. I believe we live a good life to the degree to which we can learn to build on the five pillars of meaningful living: vision, faith, love, gratitude and wonder (to read more about the five pillars, click here). An essential part of all five is freedom. The freedom to be ourselves, the freedom to imagine a future, the freedom to act in a certain way, the freedom to accept love, the freedom to give love, and the freedom to ‘let go’ of ourselves.

Freedom versus fear and manipulation

The quality of our lives are often hampered by how we relate to the idea of freedom, both in respect of accepting it for ourselves and giving it to others. It can be a struggle. What do I do with the freedom of my choice if I fear the consequences of my thinking? What am I allowed to do? Who will rescue me if my choices lead to disaster? If fear takes charge and we struggle to own our freedom, we tend to struggle to give freedom to others. The conscious or subconscious feeling can be: if I easily feel I am not allowed to do something or the risk is too big, why should I give others the freedom and not judge them, especially when I can control them in some way or another, if not by rules, then by emotional manipulation.

Freedom and love for others

And then there is the other side. I am happy to allow myself anything and bear the consequences, but what does my freedom of choice mean for my responsibility towards others? How do I balance my love for who I want to be and what I want to do, with love for others? Embracing freedom, when we understand it correctly, means both the freedom to love yourself and the freedom to love others. And to love others is to both ‘give’ them the freedom (our blessing) to express themselves, and to respect them with your words and actions as you would want to be respected yourself.

Year-end celebrations

Our freedom requires of us to live consciously. That is, to think through our actions and their consequences, but also think through our fears and our state of mind that sometimes denies the freedom we should embrace and should grant others to have.

As we have our celebrations in the festive season, we can once more open our hearts to God’s love and in doing so learn more about how to live responsibly with the freedom given to us.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg