Amazing Possibilities!

  • Matthew Kelly

Why is Freedom So Misunderstood?



We have all heard many a teenager cry, “I

want more freedom.” But is it really

freedom that these young people want?

No. What they want is to be able to do whatever they

want when they want. This is not true freedom.

Freedom is the ability to choose what is right. Thus,

freedom in its purest form is found only in slavery—

that is, we who are slaves to truth are truly free.


There are, of course, many different types of freedom.

You are free to dine at the Waldorf but you cannot

dine for free. So your freedom in this case is dependent

on your financial situation. Political liberty is a freedom

that belongs only to those fortunate enough to live

in a country whose constitution affords such freedom.

You have the freedom to choose your profession, but

your choice is dependent on your academic abilities.

These types of freedom are restricted; they are not absolute

or complete. For by choosing to be a lawyer, you

prevent yourself from being a doctor, and by choosing

to buy a fast new car, you prevent yourself from spending

that money in a hundred different ways.


Another type of freedom is the freedom to do as one

ought. While an animal is a slave to its passions and

sensuous desires, humans are equipped with the freedom

to do what they ought or ought not to do. When

we embrace this freedom, it allows reason to dominate

over the passions in accord with a higher law.


But this type of freedom also allows us to choose

otherwise. And the cost of exercising this freedom appropriately

is often very high. For example, you make a

computer error at your job in a bank, and you know

that if the mistake is traced to you, you will lose your

job. The only way that your boss can find out, however,

is if you admit to the error. You possess the freedom of

will to admit the mistake, but the cost of exercising

such freedom may be your job. One who is a slave to

truth would admit the error and thus surrender her position

because of her just exercise of freedom. She realizes

that her freedom is of much greater value than her

job. This freedom of the will is very different from the

freedom to do as one wishes.


The human being is a delicate composition of body

and soul, an intertwining of the material and the immaterial.

The material part of the human being (the body)

is governed by one set of laws, while the immaterial

parts (the intellect, will, soul) are governed by their

own laws. An understanding of our free choice is essential

not only to understanding what we are as human

beings but also to understanding how we can move toward

fulfillment, completion, and perfection.


Even a prisoner possesses some freedom to do as he

wishes within the constraints of his imprisonment.

And certainly we all enjoy the freedom to think whatever

we choose. We are all entitled to our own opinions,

but this does not make all opinions equal. For

example, if it is your opinion that all opinions are equal

while another person believes that all opinions are not

equal, then based on your belief, you must admit that

his opinion is equal to yours, even though it directly

contradicts your own.


There are many types or degrees of freedom.

The highest and the greatest of these is the

freedom to choose what is right.


In the midst of this we are brought to the question

that is as old as humanity. What is truth? We seek truth.

The experiences of our lives unfold truth for us, and

once we have discovered some element of truth, we either

embrace it or try to ignore it. By embracing it we become

a little truer and a little freer; by ignoring it we

become slaves to a lesser reality, which often consists of

pleasure, comfort, possessions, or pride.


Matthew Kelly


From A Call to Joy

Click Here to get your copy

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