A Different Kind of Freedom

As we celebrated Freedom Day in South Africa, it made me ponder on what freedom really means.

We often associate freedom with our bodies, but true freedom comes from freedom of the mind, regardless of where the body finds itself.

You can be a prisoner even when you seem to have all things your body could desire, money, comfort, a good partner and children. You can be totally free living in a shack with nothing. And ultimately it is our own choice.

We need to start by freeing ourselves from our attempts to please other people. How often do we do things that we really do not want to, simply because we try to please others, we think it will make them like us more? I once heard the story of a man who has been married for 40 years. Every morning his wife would make him a bowl of oatmeal. He once admitted to a friend that he hated oatmeal. Why, asked the friend, do you not tell your wife? Well you see, when we were just married she made me oatmeal and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and pretended to love it. Thereafter, I simply couldn’t admit that I lied. Here I am, 40 years later…

Being untrue to yourself in an attempt to please others, will slowly destroy who you are. It will destroy your soul and you will wake up one morning not knowing who it is that inhabits your body. Trust others enough to be honest with them. Trust that they will be able to handle it. And be kind to them, even when you say no.

Even more important, free yourself of the expectations you have of others. How much energy we expend in trying to change others into the persons we want them to be. Have you ever been truly successful? I know I haven’t, not even once. I spent years trying to change my partner, my children, my friends, myself. What a total waste of precious energy. Energy that could have been expended on things that could make me joyful, rather than frustrated. Accepting others as they are does not mean you have to stay with them. Often, by accepting that you cannot change them, you get the clarity to let them be who they are away from you.

The most destructive emotion of all however, is guilt. I shouldn’t have said that, I shouldn’t have done that, if only I … The past is truly over. It exists nowhere expect in twisted memories. No amount of “If Only”s will ever change one thing. Ever. All it does is to keep you prisoner in your own mind, letting you spend copious amounts of energy on could have’s, should have’s. It stops you from appreciating that which is in front of you right now. If the situation calls for an apology, apologize and then LET IT GO. Free yourself from guilt. Contrary to what you may expect, doing this will turn you into a kinder, more humble person.

We chase freedom and happiness in so many inconsequential ways and then wonder why the feeling of satisfaction is so fleeting. It is because we are looking for it in all the wrong places. The only true freedom is freedom of the mind and the mind can only truly become free when we let go of expectations and guilt. Therein lies the only true joy.

On this Freedom weekend, that is what I wish for everyone: true freedom.