Freedom, Discipline and The Pursuit of Happiness

A lot will be said about freedom in the coming holiday week. 

We’ll surely consider it in the context of the 2020 election cycle which has already seen its first presidential debates. Maybe we’ll consider global freedom and our role in advancing and defending that concept on the world stage. And I’m sure the current state of the American Experiment will be judged, for better or worse, from its 1776 inception until now.   

But freedom exists outside of our national identity. Freedom exists within us as individuals and as a community and as a society as a whole. Perhaps it’s also a good time to consider what freedom means to us on a personal level and assess how we’re using it in that “pursuit of happiness” Thomas Jefferson so eloquently attached to our freedom.

It would be easy to misunderstand the definition of freedom today. Observing those around us, one would think freedom is doing what we want, when we want, and how we want. Freedom, however, is not devoid of consequence.

Does giving our kids the ability to do what they want, when they want, and how they want, truly make them free? Are people with addictions to drugs, alcohol or pornography really free and happy? Doubtful. 

Many things we may consider exercises of freedom are actually getting in the way of our own happiness. And when we look at others, what we see as happiness might actually be quite the opposite.  

Think about celebrities like Robert Downey, Jr., better known to your children as Ironman. In the mid-1980s, he was one of the next generations of Hollywood superstars collectively called the “Brat Pack.” His career began with a string of box office successes. He lived life to excess. From the outside looking in, he wanted for nothing. The truth was, however, that he was falling apart. Drug abuse and a series of arrests cost him his marriage and brought his career to a halt. At his least visible point, he turned the corner on his addictions and made a meaningful recovery. Now sober, he is on Hollywood’s A-list again. Ironman, indeed. 

Freedom certainly is the choice to act or not to act. But, true freedom comes from doing good and  spurring the good of others. The choice to indulge in things that are unhealthy for us is an abuse of freedom and ultimately leads to us being enslaved by our vices.

Which brings us back to that “pursuit of happiness.” While we were the first to tie that concept to our national doctrine, we’re not the only people who prize happiness. 

Researchers find that people from every corner of the world rate happiness as being more important to them than any other desirable personal outcome such as having a meaningful life, becoming rich, and getting to heaven. Research also shows that much of happiness is under personal control. Ask yourself, “Is there anything you are doing in your life that binds you to your passions and desires (vices)? Is there anything you’re doing as a parent, by developing your child’s passions and desires, that’s keeping them from being free?”

For example: Do you find that you constantly give them a cell phone to keep them occupied when you’re busy or put them in front of a TV and have them watch their favorite show and then subsequently allow them to watch more and more? Do you allow them to indulge in desserts to the point their tummies hurt or they get in the habit of asking for dessert after every meal?

Good or bad habits determine whether we are free or attached to the things of life. We, as parents, don’t realize these small things we do repeatedly lead to our children being attached to a bad habit. Some of these attachments are more difficult to break later in life when they become adults.

To experience true freedom, freedom from guilt, worry or anxiety and to experience happiness, we need to understand our worth and focus on making positive choices and exercise self-control by developing good habits both for ourselves and our children. 

You are ALL worthy of true freedom! We support you making positive changes in your family, one step at a time, so you too can experience the benefits of truly being FREE!  Parenting is tough...we’ve got your back!

Jeremy Bangs is a single father of a 9-year-old daughter, Olivia. He spent more than 17 years as a writer, photographer and managing editor for community newspapers along Colorado’s Front Range.


Steven Markel