What is freedom?

As a child growing up in America, I always looked forward to July 4th because I knew it meant several things: gathering with family and friends, eating hamburgers, hotdogs, and corn-on-the-cob, and driving in search of the best fireworks we could find.

The 4th of July, more formally known as Independence Day, is the day that Americans celebrate the nation’s independence. Becoming independent in the year 1776 meant establishing a nation with the exact set of values that the people of this nation desired, values which had previously been denied or violated. The people wanted more freedom, and independence promised this. July 4th celebrates the nationalistic freedom that came through independence.

This week, as Americans proudly display their red, white, and blue in patriotic spirit, it causes us to think: what is freedom, and why is it worth celebrating? If you were to ask these questions to people across the globe, you would likely get very different responses. I’m sure that even asking several of your classmates would give you a variety of responses.

In fact, I did exactly that. I began asking the people around me (both Americans and non-Americans) what freedom means to them. As I talked with different people about freedom, I noticed that some people viewed freedom in a nationalistic way, like the way this holiday celebrates. Others viewed it in terms of personal freedom: the things an individual can or cannot do. Still others talked to me about spiritual freedom.

Here are some of the responses:

“I think freedom means you have rights to decide what you don’t want to do, and you are free to say something from your deep heart.”

“I think of it in terms of not being controlled by my desires. The things we crave can easily enslave us, so freedom is not being bound by things that we crave or compelled by things we see.”

“When I hear this word, I think it means no rules. No one can say something is wrong.”

“There is no true freedom. We cannot really be free; it is not possible. There is always something to restrict us, and we will always have limits as people.”

“Freedom is the way that you can do what you want, and no one forced you to do it.”

“I think that freedom isn’t being able to do whatever you would like, but rather living in the way God has created humanity for.”

Freedom is tricky to define, as this array of responses suggests, and perhaps even harder to attain! But even if no nation has attained the freedoms described above, independence is still worth celebrating.

As far as celebrating this July 4th, check out your campus or town websites, or look in the local newspaper to find out what events will take place. Some cities and towns may celebrate this day by having a parade or concert, while families often celebrate together at home by having a barbeque or picnic. And almost assuredly, July 4th brings opportunities to see brilliant fireworks, so be sure to find out if there will be a fireworks display happening near you!

What about you… what does freedom mean to you? Do you agree with any of these explanations of freedom?


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