Freedom is an important value for all of us. We were not meant to be manipulated, oppressed, or controlled. Each of us is uniquely beautiful and has been granted one precious life to steward.
This liberty, however, does not mean we can do absolutely anything we want without consequence. We have perverted our value for freedom to mean something entirely different than what it really means.
There are consequences for the choices we make. Legal consequences like jail. Moral consequences like guilt. Social consequences like isolation. This is the way the world works. We’ve twisted freedom in such a way that we cast ourselves as victims when the natural consequences of life manifest.
Because of this, boundaries are not barriers to freedom. Boundaries, ironically, enhance our freedom. We cannot sweep away or ignore our own guilt. Even if I were to get away with murder, the weight of consequence would torture my soul. Just because consequences are self-shackled doesn’t mean they are any less oppressive. We can be our own worst oppressor.
For the majority of my life, I’ve viewed consequences as the responsibility of others. A referee makes a call when I foul. My parents ground me. The government arrests me. Like a professional athlete or a risk-taking teenager or a criminal, my job is to get away with as much as I can until someone else regulates me.
What if there was a better way? Instead of my immature rebellion, what if I took it upon myself to discover a vision for life, my values, and what behaviors most align with them?
One of humanity’s favorite past-times is blaming others for our lack of progress, happiness, or success. They are the ones responsible for regulating me and for promoting me. They are responsible for my affirmation. We have outsourced our responsibilities, blame-shifted the consequences of our actions, and completely disregarded the fact that the best person equipped to set boundaries is….me.
If I want better relationships, perhaps I need to evaluate the boundaries I have in place – emotionally and physically. The secret to truly living in freedom is self-governance, owning the journey we are on and taking responsibility for the life we are living.
Ownership in Action
Drinking is a dangerous thing for me. My grandfather was an alcoholic. I’ve recognized that I don’t make the best decisions when I drink too much.
The government has rules about how much I can drink (in relation to driving) and the bartender can cut me off if I get out of hand. But through experience, I’ve realized that if I wait until that moment or even the drink before that moment, it is too late.
I’ve decided to set a boundary for myself when it comes to drinking. Never more than two drinks. It allows me to go out and have a good time with friends without calculating how close I am to crossing the line. I just set a boundary I know is far away from the line and it actually sets me free to enjoy the night with peace of mind and confidence.
In working with teens for over a decade, I tell them all the time that the moment they are kissing on the couch is not the moment to contemplate how they feel about pre-marital sex. They are already biased with the passion of the moment and the circumstances are heading in a direction they likely won’t be able to reverse unless they’ve committed to a boundary beforehand.
This is the essence of self-governance and it has been the secret to setting me free. I don’t spend so much time wondering when the authorities will reign down the consequences on me or mistrusting myself in the moment. I’ve taken ownership of the boundaries guiding me based on my values and the purposes I am pursuing.