Sometimes I feel that "liberty" and "freedom" are misunderstood or only vaguely understood concepts. Common understanding usually seems to boil down to "doing what I feel like" or "pursuing happiness as I see best." Liberty is hailed all over the world as important to human dignity, and it seems to inspire a lot of passionate actions and wars.
But why do we need liberty? Why is it an innate human need? What does it really mean to us?
With only a shallow understanding of liberty, it is easy to lose sight of its importance to us as human beings. We watch employers abuse liberty and oppress employees. We watch people perform foolish or even evil acts in the name of religion. People withhold from helping those in need physically and emotionally. Children are neglected and abused. And madmen get a hold of guns to take revenge on innocent victims.
The simple solution seems to be to have an overarching authority control people and circumstances so we can be safe and prosper equally. What's the use of liberty if we have an authority that can make our lives peaceful and perfect and safe? We could live in a social and political infrastructure built for us and it would make everything easy.
I think the answer lies in how our Father in Heaven governs us.
God created us in His image and gave us the ability to choose. Then He put us on earth and asked us to walk by faith. Through this, many of His sons and daughters have strayed or suffered greatly. This must be difficult for Him, seeing that He is a god of love. Have you ever wondered why He doesn't come down to earth to govern us more directly and to prevent so many tragedies by His All-Powerful Presence?
I believe that the answer is found in the why of liberty.
Without making important, unsupervised choices, we can't develop into the people we ought to be. Making good choices of our own will without any other influential presence or coercive action develops a power and character in us for good. It is the only way to truly develop a character. Without that development, we aren't any better than puppets or animals.
Heavenly Father understands this perfectly. He knows that if He came to earth and governed us directly in all his might, power and glory, we'd never become like Him. We'd never learn to make those choices of our own will because we'd be overawed by His majesty.
So He asks us to live and work by faith, and to make choices, one at a time, until we develop to our full potential.
Liberty is all about your inner growth.
As parents we take care of helpless infants and make all decisions for them. As they grow, we teach them to think and make their own decisions. We give them tools, gradually as they are ready, to make the best choices possible. According to The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education in the Home, children start to develop logical thinking at about eight or nine years of age. Prior to that, they are in a parrot stage, where they imitate everything, from learning to walk to habits in reading.
This makes sense to me. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I know that children reach the age of accountability at eight years of age, which is when the Lord commands that they should be baptized. Before this, all of the children's mistakes (that come because of mortality and their parents' follies) are covered by the Atonement.
But after that, children are required to repent and do better to be cleansed by the Atonement. According to their understanding, their sins are their own.
Meanwhile, we continue to teach these children to make choices that enhance their growth. Soon, in the teenage years, part of that teaching process is to gradually let go and give them more liberty.
Once the children are adults, they should be in charge of their own lives. And these children, we hope, will continue to make choices that will draw them closer to their Father in Heaven. But we can't restrict their liberty to insure they do. Unless they make those choices of their own will, without supervision or coercion, they can't draw close to God. Their character can't become their own.
If we continue to manage and control the lives of our children after they are capable of making their own decisions, they become dependent on us. They become less capable, less motivated, less responsible and less moral. They lose their innate connection with God because they aren't making the choice to come closer to Him.
When they lose that connection with God, they lose love for their fellowmen, for noble and great things and for anything that might make them stretch out of their comfort zone.
These same parenting concepts apply in our society at large. If we have some "great parent" that makes sure we all share nicely, complete our schooling and that all temporal needs are met, we fall into the same trap. Our inner growth is stunted, and our character is not our own.
But what about some of the horrible things that people have done in a free, capitalistic society? While a free government has laws that protect its citizens from great injustices, it can't prevent all tragedy. It can't prevent all self-destructive behavior. What good does liberty do us then?
A free government isn't all about freedom of choice. And it definitely isn't about the economic advantage it has over an alternative system. It's about honesty, a desire for the welfare of the whole, education, and a belief in God. This is a whole topic in and of itself, and it's not the purpose of my post. But it is necessary to say that the purpose of liberty is supported by these four elements. Without them, liberty can seem a negative thing, more like anarchy.
|It's so important that we choose the path we take.|
Please feel free to comment ... any critiques, differing opinions, additional thoughts. Have you ever thought about why we need liberty?