After more than a century of slavery and mistreatment, these words were spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. during a rally in Washington, D.C. in 1963. It was a speech that spurred on legislation by Congress to give blacks equal rights to whites, a monumental day in our nation’s history. His words are some of the most famous words ever spoken, but I do have to wonder if the spirit behind them has faded.
Over the past 15-20 years, we have gradually given up on freedom for a variety of reasons. We were afraid for our safety, so our fear led us to surrender rights for security. We were shaken to our core with financial collapse, so our desperation led us to turn a blind eye to government financial programs that increased our debt. And we were convinced things like health care should be a basic human right, so our ignorance led us to give up quality medical care and even higher costs. All in the name of freedom. We’ve become pawns in another man’s game of chess. Why have we become so complacent?
We’ve ceased to grasp the fact that freedom isn’t free. It requires hard work, sacrifice, and taking responsibility for our actions, decisions, and future. I’ve come to see the central issues lies in whether or not we choose to take ownership of our lives. 20th century Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud once observed that “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” Fear can be a crippling disease for the human soul, isn’t it? But ask the men and women who overcame their fear to fight for our nation’s freedom what it means to take responsibility. Their battles have been fought for over two centuries on domestic and foreign soils, through political controversy and public support. They’ve sacrificed for the future of a purpose bigger than themselves—a nation they love and an idea they believe in. But we are in danger of allowing this freedom to slip away because of our fear, complacency, and general lack of concern for our fellow man, especially those in future generations. Financial counselor Dave Ramsey says you can either sacrifice today for tomorrow, or tomorrow for today. So what’s your choice? Delay instant gratification for tomorrow’s freedom? Or toss care to the wind and do whatever feels good, regardless of the cost?
One of my favorite movies is Braveheart, the story of Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace and his campaign to push the English armies out of his homeland. At one point in the story, the two armies converge on the battlefield, waiting to engage in the fight. Wallace, sensing his men were scared and wanting to run, gives an inspiring speech with a very memorable move line:
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live…at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell your enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take…OUR FREEDOM!”
I imagine you’re thinking, “Alright Bradford, nice idea, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” And that, my friend, is where you are wrong. You can choose to take responsibility for your freedom. If you screw up, take ownership of it. Work hard at your job and, if you don’t have one, work your butt off until you find one. Pay your bills on time and live beneath your means. Help others and invest in the future of your family, your community, and our country. Break the generational sins plaguing you and overcome the hurts, habits, and hang-ups crippling you’re ability to be responsible. And, finally, encourage others to do the same.
Freedom is not free. It always costs something. You can’t control everything that happens to you or to others. However, to reclaim the uniqueness of your soul, you must take responsibility for your life, to live and act in a way that is free regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. It’s the key to freedom. So tell me…are you willing to choose responsibility for the sake of your freedom?