Written By: Krista Keil
Concepts taken from Alexandre Havard’s, “Free Hearts,” and Fr. Mike Schmitz, on “Freedom and it’s Consequences”
Autonomy. Independence. Liberty. These words all reflect a concept that lies at the crux of human existence: freedom. As students learn about the meaning of human freedom in YLF programs this month, they are learning that freedom is not just an exterior disposition, but one that is also interior. John Paul II says that,“Freedom is not just the ability to do what I want. It’s the power to do what I ought.” It should come as no surprise that freedom is hinged upon virtue- the ability to regulate ourselves rests within our moral character.
To develop a deeper understanding of human freedom, we must acknowledge that with freedom, comes consequences- which can be both negative and positive. Too often, we allow negative consequences to rule our minds and hearts, forgetting that our choices have equal power to lead us to empowering, and amazing results. In fact, the only thing inhibiting us or driving us forward is our freedom, our capacity to choose. If we recognize the power of our decision making capabilities, we'll begin to see that not only are we the captain of our own ship, but how we steer our ship impacts all the other ships around us. Thus, when we operate in freedom rooted in virtue and exercise prudence, our decisions become less about "what I want," and rather, "what will serve the greatest good?"
It seems that as society “progresses,” humanity has forgotten that although we are free to make our own choices, we are not free to choose the consequences of those choices. What happens when we (humanity) do not experience the repercussions of our actions? We fail to learn, and the virtue of justice is negated. If there weren’t consequences, humanity would become untethered and less inclined towards what is morally good and ordered- less driven towards the common good of man. Think about it, God, like any good parent, respects the freedom of His children. He gives us the power to choose, because He loves us. A good parent teaches a child about freedom through appropriate consequences, it is perhaps one of the strongest methods of love.“Rules” provide order and structure to our freedom. Freedom gives us maximum enjoyment when it is morally ordered- when our choices fall outside of moral order- struggle ensues. Our lives are, thus, encapsulated by our freedom of choice, which is guided by our freedom of conscience.
If you reflect upon the most significant relationships in your life- those who know you and love you the deepest- would they tell you when you were out of line or acted inappropriately? Hopefully, the answer is yes- but why? Because they want what is best for you- they desire your good. Their love is not an attempt to restrain you, but rather to ignite the deepest part of your being, and encourage you to walk a path that will result in positive outcomes rather than negative. This too, is exactly what God wants for us- He wants us to use our freedom, so that we may reap the ultimate rewards.
This concept sheds light upon the principle that love and freedom are not distinct from one another, but rather, deeply intertwined. Love is meant to liberate, not confine. To inform our understanding of freedom- it needs to be nurtured, our conscience fed. Striving for virtue and being active participants in experiences of beauty, love, greatness, mercy, and even suffering, can lead us to a deeper awareness of the power and meaning of our freedom.
Ultimately, God reveals to us the power of our decisions with our freedom, softly whispering, “you matter.” Our freedom is an indicator that the human person is designed to be a moral, free agent, and that our agency matters. Your choices matter. One of the greatest aims of the human experience is to discover the meaning and purpose of human freedom. How will you exercise yours?