|Norman Rockwell’s “The Golden Rule.”|
2020 has given the free world a taste of what it’s like to live under increased government restrictions and presumably temporary loss of freedoms. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, society panicked and we easily handed over our freedoms out of fear. We wanted to be safe from disease. Hopefully, we’ve all been paying close attention to what’s really going on, rather than running around like a bunch of scared chickens.
The United States is facing a potentially nation-changing decision in November, and it’s important to understand that this isn’t about politics. It isn’t about popularity. It isn’t about personality. It’s about ideologies. But we need to put on our thinking caps to understand this. We must refuse to be manipulated by emotional turmoil.
On one level, it’s a battle of which “ism” should dictate national policy. On another, it’s a battle over whom should dictate how people are allowed to live: under a ruling class or should we decide for ourselves? On a day once associated with celebrating our Freedom as Americans, maybe we should be asking what it really means to be free. Do we really want to be free? Now is the time to decide.
The ideological battle will continue to rage on, but no matter what personal and civil freedoms are taken away, there are some freedoms that no one can touch.
The Freedom to Be Kind
“It costs nothing to be kind.” I don’t remember where I heard that, but it is oh, so true. A kind word, a kind gesture, a smile – such small things, yet why are people so stingy with kindness? Kindness is a choice we each make multiple times every day.
The Freedom to Be Patient
So many people are impatient and in a hurry nowadays. They forget that patience is a choice. Actually, I would say it’s a habit, just as impatience is a habit. People get in the habit of being in a hurry, of wanting to push everyone else out of the way, and then getting angry when they can’t. Does anyone really like feeling this way? I don’t, and it’s my choice to exercise either one or the other.
The Freedom to Not Complain
Who likes being around complainers? Raise your hand. I don’t, and usually find myself avoiding people who constantly complain. Not that there isn’t plenty to complain about, but it quickly becomes a bad habit.
When I was growing up, my mother would tell me, “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” I heard that so many times that it usually pops up in my mind when I begin to open my mouth in complaint. I find that my mood and my days go so much better when I exercise this freedom and don’t give into complaining.
The Freedom to Let Others Have a Different Belief or Opinion
One of the things that fascinates me about 19th century fiction such as the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, is the conversations. Back then, conversation was considered a form of entertainment and differences of opinion were considered interesting. Not so any more. Perhaps because of insecurity or a lack of self-esteem, many people are extremely uncomfortable when others have different opinions. It’s gotten so bad, that some equate a different opinion with hate.
It is odd to me that in an era when diversity is so highly prized there is a vehement demand that everyone else be a mental and emotional carbon copy of Self. We may not be able to control the resulting censorship, but we can choose to allow others to have their own beliefs and opinions.
The Freedom to Not be Offended
This is a choice, and I’d say that being “offended” is a manipulative choice. Just like name calling, it’s intended to make the other person backpedal and change what they’re saying or doing. It takes being a grown-up to be gracious and not take everything personally.
The Freedom to Respect Others
The idea nowadays is that respect must be earned. I disagree because it implies the right to disrespect others until they pass some sort of perceived test. Unfortunately, that idea usually hijacks itself. If A treats B rudely until B earns their respect, chances are that B will decide A hasn’t earned B’s respect because of their rude behavior.
Rather than respect, I would say it is trust that must be earned. We should be cautious whom we trust, but we should show respect to everyone. Respect ought to be everyone’s right. And there’s the conundrum; respect can’t be taken, it can only be given.
The Freedom to Forgive
This is an extremely powerful freedom, yet it is rarely exercised because the intent of unforgiveness is to punish the offender. That’s human nature. In reality, the offender simply gets on with their lives, usually without remorse or regret. The offended is left bound to their hurt and anger, unable to be free of it. Unforgiveness binds us to our hurt. It binds us to our anger. Forgiveness sets us free. Without forgiveness there can never be wholeness, there can never be healing. The power of forgiveness is to set ourselves free. That is, if we want to be free.
Norman Rockwell’s “The Golden Rule” painting beautifully sums up these and other freedoms that no one can take away. When in doubt, I try to ask myself, how would I wish to be treated in the given situation? Do I like it when others are impatient with me or unkind? Do I like being complained at or about? Do I like being bullied because I think differently than others? Or being told I’m offensive when I’m actually clueless? Do I like being disrespected? Do I want to hold on to anger and hurt when the other person doesn’t even care?
Do you realize that this could be the last 4th of July holiday this country is allowed to celebrate? Think about that today. Think about how you want life to be for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren. Think rationally and wisely, not as a knee-jerk reaction to whatever emotional hot buttons have been pushed recently. Then make your life choices accordingly. You won’t be standing alone.
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