30 Seconds for Hope:
We’re free! Yet often when claiming our freedoms, both kids and adults remain unaware of a coupled factor. Every freedom we demand will be accompanied by… mask debates? Toilet paper shortages? (Stay tuned!) Whether impacting neighbors or ourselves, whether for good or for harm, freedom never stands purely alone. Understanding freedom’s partner will free you from surprise.
And now the full story:
Shrieking and splashing, my little freedom-toddler bounced around his bath tub like a sea lion energized by Red Bull. What a mess—and what fun! What tot doesn’t love the freedom of pure birthday suit? Bath time over, the little fellow escaped and streaked through the house, sporting his complete freedom. And do you think I could get this toddler to slow down for dressing? Not!
But eventually I definitely succeeded at diapering the slippery guy because I knew continued “freedom” would lead to messes on the floor. And on his family, and on guests, plus germs on the furniture. Freedom has consequences. Impacts. To avoid these particular consequences, all toddlers in my care had to follow my rule—diaper time, now! I used my freedom to impose a caregiver rule: Toddlers will be diapered ASAP.
To be sure, my choice to do the diaper thing had consequences as well. As the mom, I had to bother with constant diaper changes. And monitor ugly diaper rashes. And pay the expense of diapers. Freedom from diapers would have been w-a-a-a-y cheaper. (In fact, some cultures with dirt floors don’t bother with diapering!)
Every freedom comes with an outcome, and often several. Though we tend to view freedom as “I can do whatever I want,” we often forget that a result will kick in from doing whatever we want. Freedom does not mean you won’t reap a harvest from what you sow.
The sidekick of Freedom is Consequence (also known as: Effect. Outcome. Result. Impact.) In the same breath that declares “In America we have freedoms,” we need to declare that effect follows every freedom. Sometimes it’s a good effect. Sometimes detrimental. But freedom is always coupled with a result. For your children to understand life, they need to understand that reality. Got it, kids? Got it, moms? Got it, me?
Our tendency is to focus on our freedoms and stop there. I’m free to have a donkey in my shed. I’m free to buy all the toilet paper in the store. I’m free to raise the price on my book.
But I won’t. Why? Because a braying burro will annoy my neighbors and produce a few enemies. (Have you heard a donkey’s hee-haw? It’s obnoxious!) And I won’t because I want my neighbors to get some rolls of tissue, too. (Well okay, I might buy the last bottle of Tylenol.) And I won’t, because an increase in the price of my book will be coupled with your freedom NOT to buy that book. So I need to consider you when making my decisions. Obvious in business transactions but also true of all free choices, our decisions impact someone—me, you, or them. Don’t use freedom as a covering for selfishness. (See here and here.) Through love, use your freedom to care for people (and yes, that includes being careful for yourself).
Whenever you make a choice, consider its impact on the world around you. If you don’t, the powers that govern will do it for you and make a law. (Remember my mommy story? Yep, I imposed a diaper law when my toddlers couldn’t consider the impact of their bare behinds.)
During the current pandemic, have you been following the mask debate? Freedom is one of the big issues, correct? Logically, people should be free to wear (or not wear) whatever they want on their own faces. That makes sense, right? Yes, but… Every freedom has impact—impact on yourself and impact on others who are also free to impact you back. If a city chooses not to impose mask rules and gives everyone freedom to choose, impact still happens, and will be noticed—and will be complained about by those who fear the impact on their own health. Boom. They are free to react, which results in laws being created by the majority. Their choice. Don’t be surprised when rules begin to rule. It just means that somebody got impacted by your free choice and exercised their own freedom to choose.
Oh, but wait! Conversely, when laws are imposed (whether decided by voters or officials), those laws also produce consequences. Moreover, laws often bring unintended consequences (and people complain about that, too). Have you been thinking of mask laws as something without impact? There is never a perfect solution without a consequence. And not just mask laws, but other laws, too. The solution to one problem usually creates other problems unexpectedly. Expect it.
When my free choices are done next to you, they impact you. When your freedoms are done next to me, they impact me. Whenever your freedoms affect others, don’t be surprised when their reactions follow. There’s no such thing as free freedom. Freedoms have consequences. Laws have consequences, too. Do our kids know this? Do you?
I’m not telling you where I stand on the mask debate, although you can rightly guess that I’m trying to understand the fears and hopes of both sides. Each side has presented their valid concerns, yet they differ in how much weight to give to those important values. Let’s listen to discover others’ values.
And here’s a needed qualifier. Your next-door neighbor might like donkeys (or masks), but the neighbor behind you doesn’t. What to do? When your goal is to consider your impact on neighbors (or friends or family), how can you make a decision when others differ with each other? It gets complicated. For sure. But the main point still stands. Freedom is accompanied by results. Cause and effect. The sidekick always kicks in.
Let’s teach our children that freedom is never free of consequences. Let’s not get so caught up in demanding our freedoms that we forget to contemplate the results of those freedoms. And ultimately, let’s use our freedoms to bless others because thoughtfulness can breed love and hope—a consequence of freedom well used.
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