As an American I am mindful of the value of being free. When our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence, they were focused on freedom from political and religious tyranny, and I am grateful for their vision and sacrifice. But even though we live in the Land of the Free, we can be held captive by our own tyrants – and sometimes we volunteer for bondage. It may be time to declare independence from one or more of these common captors:
Fear of Rejection – Humans have an inherent need to be accepted and loved. Yes, some are extroverts, and some are introverts so appearances can be deceiving. Extroverts often seem to interact easily with others and their fear of rejection may show up as neediness. Introverts are more likely to withdraw if they’re experiencing fear of rejection, feeling as though it’s safer to avoid contact than to risk it. Free yourself from this fear by remembering that you have intrinsic value that is not based on any performance standard, and by connecting with people who support you and accept you for who you are.
Need to be Right – Maybe you have heard it said that we tend to defend our weaknesses, and our fear of being wrong can play out in a belief that being wrong is the same as being bad, inferior, or unacceptable. This can lead to unnecessary arguing and fighting losing battles. But freedom can be found in learning to say, “I don’t know,” or “I could be wrong.” No one should carry the burden of trying to have all the answers. Admitting when you’re wrong can help to make things right.
Addictions – Slavery to a deadly substance or behavior is one of the stickiest traps known to man. Many people know they should run the other way when temptation arises, but the attraction and need for alcohol, drugs, pornography, or gambling is too strong. Freedom from addiction is almost always achieved by a difficult, painful process that involves the honest confession of powerlessness, the physical and emotional fight to survive the initial pain of withdrawal, and ultimately, the lifelong commitment to accountability and self-control. But self-control is, ultimately, the greatest freedom. When you are free to make healthy choices, you understand that the struggle was worth it.
Codependency – Basing your moods, decisions, and actions on someone else can be crippling. When the person you’re emotionally tied to is an addict or is making destructive choices, it is imperative that you disengage from their unhealthy patterns. In order to untangle yourself from the trap of making excuses, helping them avoid consequences and covering their mistakes, you must separate over-protection from love. Real love seeks the best for the other person, and unfortunately sometimes the only way for them to stop destroying themselves is to experience the outcomes of their behavior. In order for you to be free, be strong and remind yourself that the person you love is better off with a painful consequence today that may lead to getting help and/or making better decisions than a future of failure or worse.
Comparison – If you aren’t a hermit, you probably can’t help but notice other people around you. And sometimes it makes us feel stuck on the bottom rung of the ladder of life. Seems like some people have it all – brains, beauty, wealth, talent, and seemingly endless opportunity. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But jealously can hold you back from experiencing the simple joys of life. If you want to escape from the grip of the Green-Eyed Monster, take another look around. Compare your situation to the millions who have so much less than you do – less money, less power, poorer health, fewer possessions, maybe even inadequate food, clothing, and shelter – and the comparison makes you feel grateful. Gratitude, and the desire to share that flows from it, will set you free from comparing yourself to others.
Self-Pity – Have you ever seen a movie or television show where someone had fallen into a well or cavern? Chronic self-pity is a deep, dark hole that makes it hard to get to higher ground. While it’s important for us to look inward at times to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, our hopes and dreams, and our values and goals, staring into ourselves too long can make reality grow dim. Learn the value of “anyway”. You may not feel your best, but get up, get dressed, and find something helpful to do anyway. You may not have a lot of money, but you can encourage someone with a smile and a kind word anyway. You may have problems, but you can choose to treat your life as a gift and choose to make the most of it… anyway. You may be surprised how quickly you break out of self-pity and begin enjoying the freedom to live your life to the fullest.
Busyness – How often have you heard, “Stop and smell the roses”? How often have you actually done it? We live in a society that values productivity and lightning speed, and it’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind. Roses, and all the simple pleasures the old saying represents, become a project to be completed rather than a gift to be enjoyed. Yes, we all have important things to do, but your calendar must include time set aside to slow down, spend time with people you love, do things you enjoy, read, pray – relax. If you don’t slow down once in a while, beauty fades into a blur. Make it a priority to set yourself free from activity sometimes so you can just be.
When our forefathers fought for freedom, it was with the understanding that freedom is always accompanied by responsibility. A person who can control themselves, think of others and make healthy choices will always enjoy a life of liberty.
Live, Work and Relate Well!
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