America–the land of the free–has finally led itself to a dead end. Yes, we are free from the tyranny of others and free from hunger and thirst, of cold and heat, but we seek further self-rule still. Not only do we protect deaf ears from hearing and shield blind eyes from seeing for fear of inner conflict, but we promote and demand that we should be free to do and think whatever it is we like as long as we “don’t harm others” in the process. We believe freedom is the allowing of lonely, independent, and unchallenged morals, thoughts, and actions. Liberty means that we are under no rule but our own.
I come with a word that perhaps you may wish yourself free from being challenged by.
I dare to write that freedom is not the ability to say yes to every tug and desire your heart stirs up but rather the ability to say no to them. Think of a mother with her young child at a supermarket; the child sees a candy bar and begins screaming for it, and the mother cannot make him understand “no” because he has never been made to understand it before. She may try at first to ignore him or weakly berate him, but in the end, the screaming and crying will overpower her. You see, no bystander watching this scene unfold will dare think of this mother as “free”, for, in fact, she has conditioned the relationship between her and her child to be one without the freedom of denial but with only the enslavement to the child’s satisfaction.
I say to you now that we all have a child within us—an inner child—who sees something it wants and begins prodding our leg, then whining (though it thinks itself to be reasoning with you), then outright screaming in absolute defiance. The world today tells us that freedom is equivalent to spoiling this child, giving it all it wants whenever it wants it. It seems fine for a while and you can convince yourself that you have it under control, but the more you feed it, the more the child will grow. Eventually, it will be a child no longer. It will be an adult perhaps sooner than you will, and it will no longer be like a child to you but like a lover–and you have trained it and raised it to know not the meaning of the word “no”.
What freedom is it to be ruled by one’s own childish, self-seeking, self-destructive, and insatiable heart?
True liberty is the ability to say to one’s own heart a powerful and final “No“. Freedom does not, for us today, mean the unhindered-by-others ability to submit to oneself; it is a loving and strong, “No, dear heart–I shan’t allow you to have that which will rot your teeth and make you heavy for self. You submit to me, not I to you, and you will be all the healthier for it.”
Deep in us resides a desire to be the ruler, authority, and king of our own lives. We wish to order those around us about so that we can be comfortable and satisfied at all times. We want to be powerful.
We want to be our own god, to whom alone we sacrifice and give praise.
But, as one knows deep within and often refuses to acknowledge, we truly make a more tyrannical king than any other we’ve ever known. Always demanding, always consuming, always losing more of himself beneath the piles of pride and vanity and greed–we know nothing of what it means to truly rule, only how to be ruled.
To control oneself is where true freedom begins; to give one’s crown back to Whom it truly belongs is when one is subjected to a beautifully paradoxical Authority that, under its rule, enforces true liberation.