How Prioritizing Personal Freedom Over Our Other Values Can Cause Suffering
In our culture we have grown up to believe that personal freedom equals happiness.
Well, is that actually true?
Freedom and personal rights are rarely the only thing a person values and prioritizes. You might value your family’s health and well-being, respecting elders, faith, serving our country, honesty, nature, or….
If we refuse to wear a mask or receive a well-tested vaccine because “we don’t want anyone to tell us what to do,” then we might have just acted in a way that does not honor our own values. The value of protecting our family. The value of appreciating and protecting the health care workers who are neighbors and there when we need them.
Perhaps making a decision by looking through the lens of “personal rights or freedom” isn’t so useful. Maybe it is most clarifying to ask ourselves – does my action reflect my highest priorities?
Full personal freedom to do whatever we want offers promises of happiness – but it can’t deliver. Being free to do whatever we want can actually cause suffering.
When we get hooked into a compulsive behavior like overeating, the craving part of us that drives us to overeat thinks that if we have the freedom to consume whatever we want, as much as we want, then we will be happier.
Is it true?
If we eat a scoop of ice cream, we will probably experience temporary pleasure with little negative consequence. But if we let the compulsive craving part of us run the show, then we can end up having eaten the whole container every night, feeling bloated and regretful.
Is it possible that being asked to wear a mask to protect our fellow Americans is a patriotic act? It is a form of being asked to serve our country. When someone serves our country in the military – whether by personal choice or because of a draft – they deserve great respect and appreciation. We thank them for their service.
My hope is that you might pass this on to people you know who are unclear about whether they want to wear a mask. I think the whole discussion of “who is making you do what” is a distraction.
I think the real question is: “What are your top 5 values? And do they guide you to wear a mask or not?”
My experience is that almost everyone wants to help their family and friends. So then we can see that it is our own values driving the choice – not anyone else “making” us do it.
Wearing a mask is a way in which you can serve our country and be aligned with your own priorities and values.
Very best wishes to you,
Judy O’Neill, MSW
Judy is a life coach based in Boulder, CO, seeing clients remotely or in her backyard. To contact Judy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call (303) 819-2099.
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