You, Get Better.
You can learn to be bigger than your reactions, to encompass them and be internally aware of them while refraining from externally expressing them.
Such growth is genuinely liberating. Additionally , growing in this way is endemic to the human spirit in that it directly flows out from the purest expressions of the two complementary elements of the human spirit — freedom and love.
St. John Paul the Great said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” No one can take away from anyone else this right — the right to do what one should do.
To best understand the range of action that can truly be called free, we need only look to the other element of the human spirit: love.
Love limits the range of words and actions available to us, but never limits our freedom. Such limitation “might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love. If freedom is not used, is not taken advantage of by love it becomes a negative thing and gives human beings a feeling of emptiness and unfulfillment. Love commits freedom and imbues it with that to which the will is naturally attracted — goodness.” (Pope St. John Paul II, Love & Responsibility, pg. 135)
When we understand that true freedom is always loving and good, we understand that we can only be truly free when we are loving and good — to ourselves and to others. Every word, every action that is not loving and good is not free, but is ultimately rooted in fear, slavery to sin, or both.
Building awareness of our reactions gives us the space and the patience to decide which words and actions are loving and good, and, therefore, creates the capacity for more freedom in our speech and behavior.
This freedom may seem a little counterintuitive, because it may appear slower, more thoughtful, and more deliberate — a function of intention, rather than spontaneous and instantaneous reaction. Not all of our knee-jerk reactions, however, are loving or good.
Therefore, if we want to be truly free to choose to reflect only God’s love and goodness to others, we must liberate ourselves from the compulsion to react swiftly in the moment; we must cultivate the capacity to be bigger than our reactions; and we must choose to respond only with love and goodness towards ourselves and others. This is true freedom — exercising the right to do as we ought.
© 2021 Noel Bagwell. All Right Reserved.