On Freedom, Responsibility, and Compassion

birds_1722b I don’t know if progress means more individual freedom or if freedom means progress. That’s for political scientists to discuss.

What I know is that more freedom comes with more responsibility — more choices means more possible consequences.

This balance of freedom and responsibility is a difficult one.

Children do not start out knowing the consequences of their actions. It will take a lesson for them to realize that it is painful to touch a hot stove.

Adolescents have learned some of these lessons. They take some responsibility, mainly for their own good. They avoid the consequences — the physical pain, the mental and emotional hurt that they may suffer from their actions.

And then there are people who do the right thing. They avoid what’s wrong not because of the consequences of being caught; it is wrong, period.

Then there’s compassion, concern for others. We heard about the golden rule and about loving others as yourself thousands of years ago. Yet it still seems like a new concept.

Talking about compassion to a child about to burn his fingers is almost impossible. He doesn’t even understand why you’re taking away his freedom.

In olden times there was the Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments. Today there are legal systems, lockdown rules — measures to impose consequences.

I wonder when we will measure progress by how much we act out of compassion.


  1. Yes, these times have shown us how polarised we are as a society. Many people are using this strange time to work out how to unpick some of the mistakes we’ve made as a society: our disregard for the earth for example, while others display selfishness and no wish to think beyond their own immediate needs – or wants. ‘Twas ever thus, I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand where you’re coming from, Margaret.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
      Somehow those who encourage us to think beyond ourselves are the ones who are inspiring and have enduring legacies.

      Liked by 1 person

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