Every year, on the occasion of my country’s Independence Day, I hear someone asking the question, “are we really free?”
I have heard this question being repeated on many television shows and movies, including my favourite show of all times Attack on Titan. This makes me wonder, what is the true meaning of freedom after all and what makes for a dignified living.
After a lot of pondering, reading and watching shows, I have come to understand the true meaning of freedom to some extent.
I have also realised that there is a deep connection between freedom and dignified living.
True Meaning of Freedom
“No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.”
― Gautama Buddha
Freedom can mean different things to different people. For a 5 year-old kid, the true meaning of freedom could be breaking free from the tyranny of her parents and eating all the chocolates in the world.
For a 25 year-old adult, it may simply mean going back to the same parents, without carrying the weight of endless responsibilities while still having a dignified living.
When explained in a simplistic manner, the true meaning of freedom lies in choice. It lies in a person having the liberty to make their own decisions as long as they don’t hurt others.
A person is free as long as they have the right to do things as they want, go where they want and be who they want.
But, as I have come to understand it, the true meaning of freedom is more than that. It is in a person taking the responsibility of their actions and their well being.
A person who is truly free does not let others’ behaviour, opinions and actions affect them. The choices they make are independent of external variables.
Moreover, they are not confined to their present state. They have the ability to change their circumstances.
Let’s take an example of a man who steals every time he runs out of money. He may think that if he starts earning more, he’ll be free of his habit of stealing.
But, even if he earns more, if he does not manage his finances and his expenses, he’ll run out of money and steal again. Here, the man has to have the heart to change.
Hence, the true meaning of freedom has deep deep links with courage of heart and integrity of character.
What does Dignified Living Mean?
The meaning of dignified has changed greatly over the years.
A few years ago, dignified living was defined by material possession and respect in the community in which one lived.
In addition, many other factors played a role, race, gender and nationality being the most prominent ones.
Let’s take the example of black people around 400 years ago.
During that time, the Dutch East India Company had set foot in Africa. They saw the natives as dirty people who were lesser humans.
It was their self imposed responsibility to civilise them. In the very definition of and how they looked at the native population, they ripped them off the chance to have a dignified living.
Today, the meaning of a dignified living has broken such barriers. It is closely associated with the true meaning of freedom.
It is the product of a person making the choices of their life as they deem correct and necessary.
Moreover, it lies in their choices being free from external factors. It does not depend on how much money they make every year or their marital status. Neither does a dignified living depend on how others perceive them.
A dignified living comes from one being comfortable with oneself. It is the state in which a person is aware of their role in the society as well as their responsibility towards themselves.
It depends on what one chooses to make of their life and how they define their own worth, their contribution to society. But, most importantly, how content one is after making those choices.
Signs You have a Dignified Living
Many people confuse dignified living with hyper-independence. They fear asking for help or sharing their resources.
For them, the true meaning of freedom and dignified living lies in being able to do everything on their own, no matter how much they hurt themselves or others in the process.
Hence, it is necessary to introspect. The following are the signs of a dignified living that we need to look for in ourselves.
- Doing the right thing, even if it is hard.
- Empathising with others
- Speaking up
- Working through differences to find a common ground
- Being culturally, politically, socially and emotionally aware
- Understanding self
In case one feels they lack some of these qualities, it is never late to start inculcating them.
Does Being Free Mean You have a Dignified Living?
Let’s take the example of Afghanistan for a moment. This is a country which has been bleeding for decades. She has raised people who have never seen anything but war.
The situation has worsened due to the occupation of Taliban. The women, men and children have no rights and no freedom.
Their basic human rights have been compromised too. They are doing everything they can to survive, not what they want to or should.
In such a situation, can one really have a dignified living?
The true meaning of freedom is closely linked with dignified living. Informed choices in harmony with our context makes the recipe of dignified living.
One can’t truly be free without dignity and dignity comes from freedom. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Moreover, unless we truly understand ourselves and have the heart to change our present state, we cannot move towards a dignified living as it is not something that is inherited. It is practised and built.
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
― William Faulkner
The true meaning of freedom is subjective. It depends on a person’s context. But, no matter how one comes to define it, the end result of true freedom is dignified living.
We have to learn to be truly free and more importantly, break away from things, ideas, habits and people that confine us.
Have you pondered on the true meaning of freedom and dignified living? Enlighten us by sharing your understanding with us in the comment section below.