What Is Real Freedom?

As Americans we are always talking about freedom. But what does the concept really entail? Too often we find people using this word when defending their right to do something that others think they shouldn’t be doing. “I am free to make my own choices” they’ll say, but is that actually true? 

The first question we have to ask ourselves is why do we hold freedom so dearly? We consider this to be caused by the perception that we can find happiness through our freedom of choice. And this is true for the vast majority of situations. But what about the times when we are wrong?

Our choices can hurt us in the cases where we are in error. For example, we may want to eat that entire tub or ice-cream in the freezer. However, in doing so may adversely affect our health. Therefor we are not free to do as we want but only as we should if we are to remain healthy. 

This is not to say we have no ability to do anything we feel like, but rather that one choice is for freedom and the other is for captivity. 

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act...
— CCC 1731

By giving into basic desire with no heed to what is reasonable we become un-free or captives of desire itself. Do this often enough and we may even lose our ability for self-control, we call this a “bad habit”. Bad habits that become worse are known as addiction. We have all heard the phrase “he is a slave to cigarettes” in reference to a man who smokes continuously. And rightly so, because addiction is a form of slavery that opposes the will. What is more counter to freedom than something that inhibits our ability to act as we would otherwise?   

So we can reasonably come to the conclusion that freedom is not the right to do what we want but the ability to do what we should. If we are to be truly free we must do what we know is the best and most reasonable path forward.