Finding Freedom

Finding Freedom Image by: Nemo

If you look up the word ‘freedom’ in a dictionary you will see that it is a noun and has two definitions:

  1. Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
  2. Freedom is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

We all know and understand those meanings, but how many of us have really thought about freedom in the broader sense and what it means to us? Below are some quotes from influential people. I encourage you to contemplate these and to decide what freedom means to you!

Quotes to Contemplate

Nelson Mandela

(South African Statesman)

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Do you live in a way that ‘respects and enhances the freedom of others’? I am sure you want to immediately say, “Yes of course!”, but think about it… how tolerant are you of other people’s ideas and opinions? Do you allow people to have their own views or are you always trying to make them do it your way, or see it your way? Do you shout others down or intimidate them if they dare speak up against you? If you do, then you are not respecting and enhancing the freedom of others.

If you truly want to be free I encourage you to make a conscious choice to respect and enhance the freedom of others. Instead of forcing people to think and do it your way, rather sit back and listen to others. Allow them to have their own ideas and opinions. You don’t have to agree with them, you just have to tolerate them. I urge you to work on being more tolerant.

As a psychologist, the pattern I have seen over and over again is that those who are the most secure in themselves – those who have high self-esteem, who like themselves and think they are worthy – tend to be the most tolerant and respectful of others. After all, they have nothing to prove. They know who they are and are comfortable with it. They can allow others to be different, knowing it takes nothing away from themselves.

But those who are not secure in themselves – those who have low self-esteem, who don’t like themselves and think they are useless and unworthy – are the ones who are most intolerant. They are constantly arguing with others because they want to prove that they are right and know best. They need to prove this because the unconscious belief is that I am not OK, but if I can prove to others that I am right then I must be ok!

If this need to always be right is you, seek help to improve your self-esteem. Your lack of self-esteem is keeping you trapped in a pattern of behaviour that goes against what Nelson Mandela said. That to be free means to respect and enhance the freedom of others.

Albert Camus

(French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher)

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”

This is a beautiful quote; full of hope. We all have the opportunity to become a better person. Do you experience this freedom? Are you becoming a better person? You can become better in so many ways – you can become kinder, wiser, more considerate, stronger, healthier, more spiritual, more educated. You can develop your skills and talents, you can do more for others... you get the picture. What are you doing to be better? I encourage you to make a conscious choice to decide what it is that will make you better… and then do it!

Peter Marshall

(Scottish Immigrant in America; Served as chaplain to the US Senate for two years after the Second World War)

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as an opportunity to do what is right.”

This quote reminds us that freedom is not about doing exactly what we want at the expense of others. 

Sadly in the world today too many people think it is ok to do what they want. They lie, steal, cheat, riot, murder, strike and make demands for their own gain. They prevent others from living a life according to their chosen beliefs. The tragedy is that they refuse to see the bigger picture – that such behaviour and attitude takes away everybody’s freedom, including their own. Such people are not free – they are trapped in a destructive cycle of greed and small mindedness.

Are you like that? Do you take the opportunity to do what is right? Or do you just do what suits you at the expense of others? If you want to experience freedom make a conscious choice to do what is right.

Vernon Howard

(American Author)

“Our freedom can be measured by the number of things we can walk away from.”

As a psychologist I know that too many people are trapped and unable to walk away from destructive behaviour. They may be addicted to cigarettes, gambling, drugs and alcohol. They may be unable to stop detrimental behaviour like impulse buying, stealing or lying. They may be trapped in unhealthy and damaging relationships. Sadly they are unable to walk away from these destructive patterns of behaviour even though they may know it is harmful to themselves and others.

If this is you, please make a conscious choice to seek help and get out of the trap you find yourself in. If you have an addiction or a destructive habit, if your behaviour is causing damage, then make the conscious choice to do things differently. Don’t try to solve your difficulties on your own. It can be too hard. Get professional help and learn how to walk away from the things that are holding you back and preventing you from being free.

Jean-Paul Sartre

(20th century intellectual, writer and activist who put forth pioneering ideas on existentialism).

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”

We probably all have cause to moan and complain, because life is not perfect – it throws hardships our way. We can all choose a victim mentality if we want to, but that traps us into a spiral of negativity. We cannot be free if we choose to be a victim.

Make the conscious choice to be a victor rather than a victim. Look at the positives in your life – find the lessons from your experiences and hardships and use them to find freedom.


So what is freedom for you?

Perhaps, as Vernon Howard said, it is to walk away from the tempting fight or destructive pattern of behaviour. Perhaps it is to take the circumstances and still show respect to others and enhance their freedom as Nelson Mandela said. Maybe, as Peter Marshall said, it is to do what is right rather than what we please or maybe it is just to use the experiences to be better, as Albert Camus said.

Whatever it is, make the conscious and deliberate choice to choose true freedom, not just for today, but for every day.