“Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” – Khalil Gibran
The word ‘freedom’ has been a mainstay in our zeitgeist. As our species has evolved, so has its meaning and significance to us. It’s worn many different faces throughout history.
Writer Vasily Grossman highlights this in his book, Forever Flowering. He writes, “the history of humanity is the history of human freedom. Progress is, in essence, the progress of human freedom. And after all, life itself is freedom. The evolution of life is the evolution of freedom.”
Today, we acknowledge that everyone is born free and deserves the right to live life on their own terms. We’re protected by laws and statutes, like the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consequently, the majority of people in modern society enjoy a high quality of life because they’re immune to corrupt regimes that infringe on their fundamental rights.
The Declaration of Human Rights states that:
“Human rights are standards that allow all people to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice, and peace. Every person has these rights simply because they are human beings. They are guaranteed to everyone without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Human rights are essential to the full development of individuals and communities.”
However, it’s easy for us to take this freedom for granted and ignore its fragility. To truly appreciate the value of freedom and understand its significance, one must reflect on the sacrifices, injustices, and atrocities that our ancestors had to endure to reclaim their rights. War and revolution was the hefty price they had to pay.
The idea of freedom is complex. The past is full of tragic stories, and it’s up to us, the current generation, to honor those stories and redefine what freedom means to us. We must implement that freedom in our own lives, as well as grant it to others. With the exception of certain countries and communities, we all benefit from the collective freedom that’s been granted to us by our constitutions, as long as we’re responsible and abide by the law.
Even though we’re aware of our basic rights, how many of us actually take advantage of the opportunities that our freedom opens up for us? How many of us are still held back by invisible barriers that curtail of our liberty, such as the expectations of society, culture, and family, as well as our own internal barriers caused by low self-esteem and a lack of confidence?
What’s the point of being granted liberty when we aren’t using it to pursue our happiness? The truth is that we can never be free, in the real sense of the word, if we allow ourselves to stay trapped in fear. If we succumb to that fear, we remain in dead-end jobs and relationships that prevent us from pursuing what we truly desire, or we don’t speak up for ourselves and demand the respect that we deserve. According to the 19th-century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, “individual freedom of choice and decision is vitally important in the carving of one’s identity and their sense of being.”
Claiming our right to freedom does not require that we run into battle or behead tyrannical monarchs. Instead, it requires that we claim it to speak our minds, express our creativity, and impart ideas and opinions that can enhance the lives of others. If we are in a position of power, whether that that be as a parent, boss, CEO, president, or a leader of any kind, it means that we treat our subordinates with dignity and basic respect by giving them access to resources and the chance to progress and thrive in a safe and healthy environment.
Freedom is important because to be free is human nature. And we are happy only if we are free. Without it, we wither away like a flower in the cold of winter.
Here are four reasons why we lose our life force and vitality when our fundamental right to freedom is taken away from us:
1. Our growth and learning are stunted: Growth is only possible when we have the freedom to explore and venture beyond the confines of our immediate environment. When people lay boundaries to contain us, our learning curve is stunted, and we stay stuck on the same level of performance. Learning occurs when we explore possibilities and take chances that can move us to the next level of personal development. If we aren’t successful in our attempts, we learn valuable lessons from which we glean wisdom to improve and move closer towards success.
2. We won’t be able to discover our gifts and contribute: Nature has instilled within each and every one of us a unique imprint, which includes not only our personality traits but our strengths and gifts. We have all the skills, proclivities, and intuitive know-how to live independent, adult lives and lives filled with happiness while fulfilling our potential. To discover our gifts and passions, we need the time and space to engage in deep inquiry and to experiment with different options so that we can find what feels right for us and aligns with our vision.
3. Repression can lead to a life of regret: When we are not given the freedom to nurture and develop our potential, we’re heading for regret, our lives filled with ‘what if’s’ and ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve’. At the end of our lives, we will only regret the chances that we didn’t take. This is a major driving force for me – it’s the fear of being regretful, that pushes me to knock down barriers and to take leaps of faith. The amount of value you attribute to your freedom is intrinsic and personal to you. If you see how important it is to your wellbeing, you’ll be more likely to fight for it when the need arises.
4. You’ll lose your sense of power and health: Every time we make sacrifices that goes against our natural state of autonomy and freedom, our source of personal power gets depleted. When the strength of your free will is at stake, so is your health. Intuitive healer, Caroline Myss says that “what drains your spirit drains your body. What fuels your spirit fuels your body.” Our vitality and health take a hit whenever we fail to take action to free ourselves from the shackles that chain us to the will of others. Not fighting for our rights makes us vulnerable to developing physical disorders, chronic illnesses, and other health complications.
Freedom is everyone’s birthright because we are, ultimately, explorers at heart. We are at our happiest when we can discover, learn, and create by listening to the whispers within us. Freedom is the elixir for happiness because it’s what our spirits need to soar up towards higher states of consciousness and fulfill their purposes.
All my best on your journey,
Reflection Question: Do you believe that freedom is everyone’s birthright? How do you interpret this statement?