What is Freedom to Me?

A weekend's worth of reflection

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
—Desmond Tutu

Freedom! What does freedom really mean? How do power, flexibility, privilege, immunity, or opportunity relate to freedom, or do they? Who or what does Freedom belong to?  Who or what should it belong to?  Who gives it, why is it given, and why is freedom taken away? Is it only a right of humans? And on and on and on. I’ve been sitting with these questions for a few days now and especially this Fourth of July weekend.

My contemplation has been met with confusion and left me with more questions and a sense of deeper sadness.

I was able to name what I felt today that does not feel like freedom. What I see and read about does not feel like freedom.

Feeling even more powerless and distressed, the only solution was to understand what was my role? What would make me feel that I was contributing to what I articulate as feeling free—Being able to be who I am with everybody and, more importantly, being able to authentically offer that opportunity to ALL I meet. Reframing my internal conversation felt a bit relieving and hopeful.  

To me, freedom is how and who I strive to be personally, with values that are moral and fair, and how I show up in the world despite what I see, hear, read, meet or experience. 

More importantly how I open up spaces that are safe for others, my family, friends, colleagues, students and residents, acquaintances and community. An opportunity for us and me to be brave, open and kind and non-judged, just be to belong.  

Freedom is not really freedom if it is not underpinned in the belief that each human deserves the right to have a voice, to share their unique story, to be listened to with an ear that is not biased. Freedom is the belief that each human has value and should have the ability to share that value for the better of all humanity. Each needs to be given that opportunity. 

Freedom only can be felt when it is felt by all! 

Freedom is the basic human kindness to acknowledge another person as a spiritual being who happens to be in a human body,  with a lens that is open and inviting. I am reminded of the words by His Holiness the Dalai Lama about world peace, that when each takes care of their neighbor there will be world peace. If we each commit to this basic human kindness irrespective of any qualifiers—even for just one other spiritual being in a human body and any living being—just because it is the right thing, we will be closer to the more authentic feeling of what is means to be free! 

I am reminded yet again of the Courage & Renewal Touchstones or rather Touchstars (as they are sometimes known). I especially keep close to my heart these: It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different; When things seem hard or difficult, turn to wonder and curiosity, (don’t judge or stereotype). Thus I will continue to strive to serve. 

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
—Desmond Tutu

#REFLECT: How is this quote related to your personal meaning of the word freedom?


How is the coronavirus and civil unrest around racism changing the way you think of self-care, community and resilience? As this challenging time unfolds, I am posting a quote on this blog with a reflection prompt. Please join in the conversation here or on Twitter with your thoughts or about what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.