Have you ever had a moment where you wanted to do something that you knew was wrong? Then you said to yourself, “I’m gonna do it anyway because it’s my life and I can do things how I like”. Ah… the perfect recipe for regret…
We’ve been blinded by democracy. That ability to make our own choices and influence how our lives become. It had a noble purpose, once.
When the ages were dark and others chose how you led your life, people were miserable under kings who told them what to do without caring how it affected them. When others ruled your life and made choices, those choices were designed to be good for the chooser and left us, the common people, out of the equation.
We retaliated. We wanted freedom! Freedom to make good choices rather than be trapped in the bad ones of our kings and queens and dictators and freedom to live a happy life. But somewhere along the way, we forgot that we wanted to make GOOD choices and started to think that we just wanted choices. Now… now we want freedom for freedom’s sake.
Some would argue with me. They’d say that freedom isn’t just about making the best choice, it’s about making your own choice. And that includes making a choice that’s bad as well as a choice that’s good.
This line sums it up well:
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
– Mahatma Gandhi
I agree. Kinda.
But you see, we’ve gone over the deep end. We want to reassure ourselves over and over again that we have this freedom and therefore we continually and purposely make mistakes. Worst of all is that we seem to think that this is somehow noble, to fight for freedom and freedom alone.
I say that the whole point of gaining freedom is so that you can choose what is RIGHT. Because sometimes those who have power over you will choose only what is good for themselves, which usually means something that is bad for everyone else. So the original purpose of gaining freedom isn’t just to make ANY choice, it’s to make the best choice. It’s to make the right choice.
I mean, have you ever thought to yourself that you want to ruin your own life? Never. It’s always been about making your life better, or making the life of your loved ones better.
I’ve spoken before about how I sometimes support making mistakes on purpose, but it’s clear that I mean mistakes that come as a result of learning a new skill, not mistakes that can ruin your life.
So I think that we all need a wake up call, to remind us that freedom isn’t there so that we can all strive to make mistakes, whether as a society or as an individual. It’s there so that we can do good, even when people don’t agree with us sometimes.
But wait, what’s the meaning of “good”? What’s the meaning of “right”?
Good is subjective
The evangelists (super strong supporters) of freedom, they call out loudly and say that good is subjective. That we have to preserve freedom in general because what I feel is wrong might be right for someone else.
Not true. I think that for the most important things in life, there’s always a “right” way. Yes, you can have different favourite colours, or different jobs and hobbies, but there should only be one correct way to treat your parents (with respect), and only one right way to do your job (ethically and responsibly). For me it’s quite simple. The “right” way is what resonates with my core values. The “right” way is what fits my religion.
After all, I think that as humanity in general we can readily agree on most things. Murder and stealing are wrong. Education and children are sacred. Life is something that we shouldn’t just throw away. Don’t cheat. Be respectful. Be trustworthy. It isn’t so hard to find common ground on what is “right”.
Oddly enough, I think we spend a lot of our freedom trying things out so that we can find the “right” way of living our life. And sometimes, we spend a lot of our freedom trying everything wrong, with the excuse that we want to “experience life”.
Make no mistake, I’m not against having freedom. I am against misusing it and abusing it.
When given freedom and given the opportunity to make your life better, it saddens me that there are many people who misuse that freedom to do every mistake possible, just because they can. Just to prove that they can. You know what I mean. Even while knowing that cigarettes and drugs are bad for us, so many people still want to rebel and take it up, not because they’re trying it to find if it’s “right” for them. They know it’s wrong.
But they’ll do it anyway because they want to rebel, to reassure themselves that they are still in control of their lives, where they’ve lost control of everything else. When they’ve screwed up the rest of their lives, they feel that the ultimate form of proving that they have freedom is to make a mistake.
As you can guess, I don’t support this. I support making the right choices. But I also don’t support having other people controlling your lives and controlling what you choose.
Hmmm…. what now?
The middle ground
Surprisingly there’s a middle ground. It’s called guidance.
You can have freedom, but you can also be guided. You can ask. You can accept advice and you can hear people out when they tell you what to do. You can talk to family and friends. (Not friends and family. Notice which comes first. Family should always be first in that line-up)
Through all of that, whether people tell you the right thing to do or the wrong, whether people suggest things or aggressively force it on to you, remember that it’s all just suggestions. In the end you choose what you want to do. So don’t worry too much if they’re TELLING you what to do. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. If you think it’s good advice, then do it anyway in spite of them being so aggressive when giving the advice. Use that good advice even if it comes from someone you hate.
The idea here is that no matter what people say, you are the one making the choice in the end. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get guidance and input from others.
There’s a small story that led to this post. Every once in a while, my mom or dad would suggest something to me. It used to be that my first reaction was to rebel in my mind. “They don’t own me! They can’t tell me what to do with my life!“
But it’s a stupid reaction. So I suppressed it. Instead, I thought about the content of the advice. It turns out that they were usually right and that their advice was pretty darn good.
So I think that we all need to be able to do that. To listen to people’s advice and hear their message for what it really is. Afterwards, you can do whatever you want and ruin your own life (just don’t ruin mine). But don’t go out and do something while ignoring everyone’s advice then act all surprised and sad when everything goes bad later.
Yes, you have freedom. No, you shouldn’t use it to do whatever you like.
So when your choices are suddenly limited and filtered out (whether by the situation or by other people), don’t suddenly get angry and complain that your “freedom is being taken away!”. Ask yourself if the good choices were the ones that disappeared. If the only things that disappeared were the bad choices, then perhaps it’s just a teeeeeeny bit useless to get angry about it.
I don’t really want all choices to be open to me. I just want the choices that are right for me to be open to me.
The paradox of choice
After all, it’s actually bad for us when we have too much choice. The paradox of choice states that when there are too many options available to us, we get paralyzed. After all, we want the best choice, right? That also means that we have to research EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. And that simply overwhelms us and paralyzes us.
So I’m actually fine with having my choices limited. As long as the choices that are limited are the ones that were bad for me anyway. So please please start limiting your own choices. The people who feel like they can do anything are the same people who are the dictators and evil governments of the world.
It’s my hope and prayer that when a bad choice comes along, my family and friends would be there to support me. But I don’t want them to support me in whatever choice I make. NO. I want them to support me in choosing what is right. And telling me what is wrong.
And hey, it turns out that I have an awesome family and awesome friends. It seems that it might just work out…
Conclusion: Summing it up, I know that there’s a gray area in making choices where no one is really sure whether it’s right or wrong. That’s NOT what this post is about. This post is about the choices that you know and that everyone knows is wrong, but we somehow want to defend anyway. I don’t think we should.