08 December 2018

Truthful And Free


We wish for things, and when our wishes are not granted, we feel sad. We expect things, and when the norms upon which we grounded our expectations are violated, we get mad. We intend to change the situation so we can be granted our wishes or we can redeem the violation, but at times, we just cannot. We feel helpless. To make our helplessness more palatable, we say to ourselves that we just don’t care. But we know inside that we really do care. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t have been sad or mad in the first place. We are stuck.

Life, however, is constantly moving and does not accept stagnation. We act. We tell our wish to the other person, and if it’s legitimate, we hope that by making our desires clear, our wish will be granted. At times, we communicate our sadness in order to be authentic and express ourselves or to strategically move the other person and change her position. The other person then recognizes us and understands or is moved and influenced by our expression, and then acts accordingly. We make explicit the particular norm that’s been violated. As the person being called out recognizes the norm, she apologizes and corrects her transgression. At times, we express our anger communicatively, if we are entitled to express such feelings in that specific context, or we even do so strategically, to move the other person to change. Our act invites a second action from the other person according to whether she chooses to dialogue and understand or be influenced by our action. The interactions continue.

However, we can also choose to abstain from acting. We can choose to be free from engaging in action. We cannot deny that we care. We are not choosing inaction because we don’t care, and it’s not because we are helpless, either. We are free. We abstain because we are free.

We wish, and we expect. Our desires and the norms to which we assent are what constitute our identities. That is all true, of course, but it is also true that we are free to decide not only what to do with our wishes and expectations but also to decide what constitutes these wishes and expectations themselves. We can give our wish a different shape or choose a different path for our desire. We can wish something different and still be. We enact a higher norm to explain the other person’s actions, or we choose to simply forgive. We are not stuck, and we find hope in our freedom to move on.

But as we choose to be free, our free selves question if we are truly free or if we are choosing freedom because we have no other choice. Our reflections quickly bring to our awareness the uncertainty of whether we really do mean it when we say, “I mean what I say.”

When we are being free, we know—before anyone else does—if we are being truthful to ourselves. I am only free if I can be truthful. But could I be truthful if I were not free?