“Freedom is first of all a responsibility before the God from whom we come.”
“Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.”
“Freedom is the last, best hope of earth.”
Today is Independence Day in the United States. The word “independence” means not only freedom, but also the ability to decide and act on one’s own despite pressure or opinion. Curiously, I was remembering, not our national beginnings, but Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. They are
· Freedom of Speech
· Freedom of Worship
· Freedom from Fear
· Freedom from Want
The Four Freedoms speech was given on January 6, 1941. Despite its peaceful rhetoric (and the accompanying Norman Rockwell paintings depicting peaceful and prosperous times), it was an encouragement to engage in war and arms buildup. Burned by the emotional impact of World War I, in which there were over 16,000,000 deaths worldwide (although only 117,000 of those deaths were American), the United States adopted a policy of non-interventionism or isolationism, taking a pledge to not be involved in international disputes.
Roosevelt knew, however, that events occurring in Europe, including the Holocaust, concentration camps and the systematic overthrow of other countries by Germany, Japan and Italy would necessitate American involvement. Roosevelt said,
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
Roosevelt painted a picture of peace and safety, but would necessitate war in order to secure. Eleven months later, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United Sates declared war on the Axis powers. And though it may have been necessary and just, World War II, sadly, did not secure the four freedoms for people everywhere in the world. Still, I believe it is possible to secure these freedoms for oneself and perhaps teach others to do it for themselves. I’m not blind or gullible. I know there is evil and repression in every part of the world, but that doesn’t have to stop me from my making my world, my part of the world and hopefully part of the world at large, a better place.
Interestingly, two of these are freedoms for something and two are freedoms from something. Although we are a free country, not all of us are free. Many of us are enslaved by bad habits, fear, laziness and a lack of purpose and determination. I think each of us needs to declare our own personal freedoms. Here’s how I am declaring mine.
Exercising my Freedom of Speech is paramount for me. It is the expression of my Purpose, through my blogs, my radio show and, soon, my books. From written and spoken expression come all my thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. The way I choose to use this freedom is by being the most positive person I can be. I realize that there are many evils to denounce. I also believe that, often, the most effective form of denouncement is the announcement of something new and positive.
It is my freedom of speech that allows me to be creative and positive, but I have little room or desire for negativity. There’s enough of that in the world. Ironically, I’m working on a book that seems, at the outset, very negative, but hopefully its positive message will shine through.
Freedom of worship means I create my priorities in life. These priorities are not just spiritual. Ultimately, we worship what is most important to us. We worship by giving our time, talents and resources. I choose to make my relationship with God my priority. I know that without God in my life, little else matters. I fail in this relationship often, but I keep going, because it is a relationship of grace and forgiveness. I know this because every day that I wake up, I am giving a new chance.
Freedom from want does not mean that I get everything I want; that would be bad. It means that I am freed from the belief that material needs will make me happy. Yes, I want money and comfort. Beyond that however, I want a right relationship with God and others. I want contentment and joy. I want prosperity. I want children who love Jesus and others. I want to set an example for the world. I want to make a difference.
Finally, there is freedom from fear. This freedom allows me to move forward with the other three freedoms. Sometimes this freedom comes before I start writing or being in Purpose, but most of the time, it comes while I’m working. I’ve said fear is a bear that is large and ferocious, but sometimes it’s a cockroach, creepy, quick and omnipresent. The best way to kill it is by stepping on it…hard. Every time I write, I am stepping on fear. Every time I undertake a difficult task with persistence and diligence, I am stepping on fear.
Those are my Four Freedoms. I choose to start today, just as I choose to start every day. As I said, every day is a new chance and a new choice. All I need to do is to Get Started and Keep Going.