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Freedom is only as limited as the freedom given to others

9 Apr 2024

We all want to be completely free ourselves, but refuse to give complete freedom to others. How can that equation ever balance?

Every time I’ve wished for somebody to change or be other than they are, I created my own suffering. The judgement toward them was coming from the same place as the judgement I gave myself. A sense that I can’t be ok until something is different.

Why is it so easy to love nature and animals? Because we don’t impose constraints on them, and they don’t impose constraints on us. We give a pet freedom to be as they are, and love them as that. They give us freedom to be who we are, because it’s not even in their capacity to judge. They don’t hold a grudge, they don’t label us for how we act or don’t act.

There seems to be an instinctual impulse toward freedom, maybe the reason why we feel defensive around people who try to control us. But we hold ourselves back from that freedom by constraining others.

To give ourselves freedom means to first give everyone else freedom to be themselves. This doesn’t mean we must spend time around people who hurt us, but it does mean giving them the complete freedom to be who they are while giving ourselves the freedom to walk away without judgement. In fact without believing we can change somebody, we may be more willing to walk away from a damaging situation.

As much as you constrain others, you constrain yourself. By believing that others must change, you hand over your agency to others.

This fact is avoided because it means we are completely and totally responsible for our own fulfilment, exactly as we are right here. It means that nobody is coming to save us. It means we must face the fact that if satisfaction is not here and now, then we’re building our own barriers to it. If we believe that satisfaction will someday be found out there in a person, attainment, or situation, we’re ignoring the satisfaction that is available right here and now, as we are. We could delay and delay and chase and chase until the fragility of life reminds us that the future never arrives.

This is an uncomfortable truth to face, because it means digging deep inside oneself and dismantling those barriers. It’s easier to believe that happiness will be found out there, somewhere in the future, so we continue to believe it even as evidence continues to prove us wrong. You don’t need to wait until death comes knocking to recognise this. It’s available to you now if you’re willing to look.

If you no longer want to be judged, constrained or held back, first investigate the ways in which you do that to others. This is not about morals, it’s about your freedom. It’s not about seeing that it’s wrong or bad, it’s about seeing that it has no inherent truth to it. It’s nothing more than ideas. Then it can be let go of.

When you clearly see that your own judgement or demands have no actual basis in reality, that they are not necessary for happiness, you see that neither do others judgements or demands on you. When you find the unmoving ground of satisfaction within yourself, you see clearly that another’s belief that you are responsible for their (un)happiness is just a mistake that they happen to believe. Nothing more than a myriad of conditioned beliefs playing out in the mind.

When you see this clearly, there’s no need to fight for anything. Everything you were looking for through chasing, demanding, searching is already right here. It’s what you are.

The moment we give others complete freedom, we’re completely free ourselves too. One cannot come without the other.

If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.

— Rumi

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Jordan West

Sydney, Australia

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