It’s a common scene on the playground: Johnny does something that annoys Billy, so Billy shouts, “Stop it!” Johnny retorts, “You can’t make me. It’s a free country!” Thanks to history teachers, we all learn that Americans enjoy a level of freedom unknown in many parts of the world. I, for one, thank God for the opportunity to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But apparently Johnny hasn’t caught on yet to the fact that freedom doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants no matter how others are impacted, especially if he wants to grow up and have a good life and good relationships.
As we mature, we begin to learn some of the choices we make every day in order to live well and enjoy life. Here are a few:
Choose to consider others, not just yourself. The happiest people in the world are usually people who think less about making themselves happy and more about having a positive influence on others. If your life is spent pursuing your own satisfaction, you will never be satisfied. Obsession with self-gratification leads to emptiness, but a full and happy life comes from being encouraging, kind and generous to others.
Choose to exercise self-discipline. A visit to any grocery store in America demonstrates the vast array of options you have to either nourish or damage your health. You can find entertainment of all kinds 24 hours a day if you don’t want to sleep. If you want to drink alcohol past the legal limit, it’s easy to get an Uber ride home. But if you want to make the most of your life of freedom, you’ll heed the famous words of Ben Franklin: “Early to bed and early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Self-control also improves your relationships every time you resist the urge to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when you’re angry. Take a slow deep breath and think about the consequences of speaking too freely.
Choose to do the right thing, no matter what. Those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today knew they were putting their very lives on the line, but they chose to do what was right in spite of the risks. Most of our decisions to do what’s right – or wrong – are not as imminently dangerous as a war, but making wrong choices repeatedly will set you on the proverbial “slippery slope” that leads to decay in your character and negative consequences. In too many cases, poor choices lead to the bondage of addiction, legal problems, broken relationships, anxiety and depression. Make the right choice every time, and you will experience fewer regrets and much less stress.
Choose to forgive. The choice to hold a grudge and let your resentment fester is a heavy ball-and-chain to drag through life. It’s a poison that will affect your relationships and prevent you from feeling joy and peace of mind. The person who hurt you will always have the power to hold you back until you release them. Forgiveness may allow you to restore a good relationship to health, or it may be necessary to let the relationship go, but you can never make a full escape unless you choose to forgive.
What are some choices you have made that help you feel more free? What do you value most about freedom? We would like to hear from you.
Happy Independence Day!
Live, Work & Relate Well,