Real freedom has self-control

By  Anna-Therese Pierlot , Youth Speak News
  • February 19, 2009
Everybody wants freedom. Everybody deserves freedom. Freedom is not simply a privilege; it is a responsibility and a right.

But what is freedom? According to one classmate, “freedom is being able to do whatever one wants.” Something about that definition didn’t sit well with me.

After all, don’t dictators do just that: whatever they want? Is that freedom? Certainly not for the people living under such rule. True freedom cannot belong simply to an individual or a select few. For freedom to be of true value it must be available to everyone. And certainly not everyone can do whatever he or she wants.

Labelling freedom as “being able to do whatever one wants to” suggests that freedom is a selfish thing.

In fact, what is actually being described is licence (doing whatever one wants). Such licence can lead to dictatorships (including those of Hitler and Stalin) and slavery because it is based on selfishness rather than virtue. Therefore real freedom must be unselfish. This means self-control, not self-release (doing whatever one wants).

So what about free choice? Well, first of all, what does “free choice” really mean? Giving in to every passion and impulse? I have friends at school who drink regularly, party often and basically do whatever they want to. But I do not see “free spirits” here; I see slaves. They have not chosen to live this way; they have given in to this lifestyle. And now, for some, the addiction to alcohol has made them true slaves. For others, they have become so dependent on parties and their “social” life that it is no longer a matter of choice; they are “stuck in a rut” so to speak. How is that freedom?

Yes, they may have made a choice, many choices in fact, but none of them stem from true freedom; many or all of them stem from the slavery of temptation and lack of self-control. Does this make them bad people? No, but the choices are bad nevertheless, as none of them lead to the betterment of the person making them.

Since freedom implies a lack of unnecessary restraint, free choice must be about making choices that will destroy the restraints of sin, temptation and everything that would enslave our heart and will. Such freedom will never be attained through self-release, but self-control. In other words, to be free indeed means to be our own masters: masters over our actions, our thoughts, our words and our choices. Only when sin and temptation are no longer the masters of us will we be, with God’s grace, our own masters.

As St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “The good man, although he is a slave, is free; but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and a slave not of just one man but, what is far more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices.”

This freedom is not restricted to the rich, the powerful or even the physically unrestrained: it is available to everyone because everyone has been given the gift of free choice and willpower.

(Pierlot, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Morell Regional High School in Morell, P.E.I.)

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