The Freedom to Say "No"

Posted by Phil Altmeyer, Executive Director Jul 1, 2015 11:50:15 AM


The interviews for this month’s cover story yielded some great insight on the subject of freedom. Particularly intriguing to me was how drastically residents’ definitions changed as they pursued recovery. Again and again, “before” definitions echoed this one from Kevin: “I thought freedom was being able to do what I wanted when I wanted and not being accountable to anybody but myself.” One of the big problems with that definition is that it’s not sustainable.

After doing what they wanted when they wanted for an extended period, residents realized they weren’t really free at all. They were in bondage – to shame, to addiction, to fear. They could not say “no” to drugs, to alcohol, to their own desires. An emptiness deep inside drove them, enslaved them.

Which brings us to the second problem with this common definition: It assumes that captivity always comes from an outside source – laws, rules, government, authority figures. And sometimes it does, but the biggest enemy of freedom often comes from within ourselves.

We are blessed to live in a country that values freedom. The first amendment to the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom to express our grievances. I certainly don’t want to minimize those freedoms. They come at a high price, and I am extremely grateful.

At the same time, Jesus tells us that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” and that encompasses every single person on the planet. We cannot say “no” to sin on our own. We have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for affirmation, for pleasure, for material things, for comfort. Unquenchable, that is, until we taste the Living Water.

Jesus Christ satisfies our deepest longings and gives us the power to say no to the imposters who promise such fulfillment but cannot deliver. Christ also gives us the power to say “yes” – to unconditional love, to peace, to putting others before ourselves, to doing the right thing.

Kevin’s own definition of freedom shifted radically in just four months: “I think when you’re truly free is when you know you’re doing the right thing, and you don’t have anything you’re looking over your shoulder about. When you know you’re living in the truth, you don’t have any secrets, and you’re not afraid.”

And Kevin is clear about the source of his freedom: “It wasn’t until I really tried putting Jesus first in my life…I feel that’s the beginning of true freedom.”

You are showing people who feel trapped and hopeless the way to true freedom.

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Topics: freedom, Recovery, addiction, jesus, Heart to Heart, bondage, Phil Altmeyer

Click here to see all articles for the July 2015 issue.


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