I can’t remember how young I was the first time I used the phrase, “It’s a free country” to justify something I had just done or something I wanted to do. My brother told me that when his son Jonathan, was just a little guy, he was next door playing with a friend. About dinnertime my brother walked to the neighbors to retrieve his three year old and bring him in for the night. He knocked. Jonathan and his little friend answered the door.
“It’s time to come home son, mom’s got dinner all ready,” said dad, hoping for a smooth transition.
Jonathan’s reply, “I don’t have to come home! It’s a free country! I can do anything I want!”
Later that night, my brother announced to Mister Independence that it was now time to take a bath. Once again Jonathan spoke his mind. With hands on his hips and with as much determination as he could exhibit, Jonathan reminded his dad that because of the kind of country we live in “free” he did not have to take a bath.
“I don’t have to take a bath. It’s a free country,” he said. And then, just to make his stance perfectly clear the little fellow who didn’t quite have the “th” sound mastered, added, “And when I turn four, it will be a four country!”
There seems to be a lot of confusion in the world, even among “big people” concerning the concept of freedom. This confusion is the root of so many of our world wide, national, and personal struggles, including the epidemic problem of addiction.
There are times when I am tempted to use the word “freedom” to justify my right to act out in some way that is unhealthy or destructive to me or to others. “I can eat this, do or not do that, say this, act like that…I’m free! It’s a free country! I usually don’t say it out loud. I allow it to run through my mind when the opportunity arises to take action, action that in the past, resulted in some kind of misery and a surprising loss of freedom.
Nephi tries to help us straighten out our confusion when he taught, “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27)
In other words, I have God given freedom to choose. I can use that freedom to choose greater freedom, or I can use it to choose captivity; to choose to be less free in some area of my life. Let’s take the freedom to eat for example; when I exert my freedom by choosing to eat well, I receive greater freedom in the form of a health body, clear thinking, ease of movement, and a mind free of worry about the subject. But if I use the freedom to choose to justify poor eating I forfeit freedom. For the alcoholic/addict that loss of freedom comes in the form of “jails, institutions, or death.” Although no one will ever put me in jail for destructive eating, I understand the sorrow of making a prison out of my own body.
Living in recovery is helping me sort out my own confusion about this business of freedom. Today I practice catching myself mid thought, before I take destructive action. The truth is, I am free to eat, drink, and take whatever I want into my body. I’m free to do or not do, to speak or not speak, and to act according to my will because, like Jonathan said, it is in fact is “a free country!” But on my next birthday, based on my choices this year, it won’t be a “four country” It will be a place of greater or lesser personal freedom based on my choices today.
By Nannette W.
Posted Saturday, November 15, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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