I really wanted to write a piece celebrating Independence Day and the advent of freedom in our country. And yet, I have been frustrated as I have contemplated the many core American values and institutions which seem to be under attack.
As I started to write, I found myself becoming more and more negative and even cynical in what I was writing, so I stopped. Rather than detailing what is not going well, I thought that I might ask you a series of questions that would help you consider and reflect on the many opportunities that are available to anyone blessed with the ability to choose one’s course in life. May I simply state that my intention is not to offend, but to cause reflection and appreciation for that which we all frequently take for granted. If I can do that, then waiting to write this piece will have been worthwhile.
1. Are you tolerant of differing points of view?There is something honorable and noble in attempting to understand those that think differently. Differences in opinion foster learning and understanding and give us glimpses of experiences that we may not share. More tolerance in the public discourse is needed if we are ever to solve our mutually challenging problems.
2 Are you respectful in word and deed in your dealings with others?Sometimes our disrespect for others is centered in a lack of understanding. We have tendency to reject or shun those who are not like us. Our outward behavior is a reflection of our inward thinking. In order to challenge our behavior, we must learn to examine the thinking that created our behavior. As you challenge your thoughts, seek the facts or evidence that gave rise to your opinions or judgments. If you cannot find the facts to support your thinking, examine the accuracy of your thinking by searching for the facts—you may find that it gives you a different perspective.
3. Do you take responsibility for the successes or failures in your life? When things don’t turn out as we had hoped, it is easier to blame someone else or to excuse our lack of results on surrounding circumstances. Trying to lay the blame outside yourself will not change your results. We are free to choose how we view our situation and how we will respond to it. The sooner we recognize where we are and make needed course corrections, the sooner we can change our results.
4. Do you give a maximum effort at everything that you do? Hard work is the key to success. Our freedom in this country allows everyone the opportunity to work hard and achieve success. It doesn’t mean that we will all have equal successes or that everyone will be the same. When my father put me on the bus to travel to college, he said, “I said that I would send you to college, but I didn’t say that I would pay for it.” Luckily for me, I understood well before he put me on the bus that I would have to work, plan, and save for what I wanted. I am thankful that he did that because of what I learned about choice and the consequences of my actions. I am grateful to live in a country where the opportunity to work hard and achieve success is largely up to us.
5. Do you regularly take the opportunity to assist and serve others?Many people are less fortunate than you. Learning to get outside yourself is one of the keys to developing gratitude and a deeper sense of charity and love for your fellow man. Although many may never speak or express gratitude for your efforts, you will develop a sense of selflessness and a greater understanding of your fellow human beings.
6. Are you active in searching for the truth?There are so many voices today that want to tell us what we should believe and support. The loudest voices are often what some have deemed to be popular or politically correct. Such voices can not only be shrill, but also oppressive if you do not share the same views. Looking to understand the facts and evidence that supports their views or runs counter to them is a great place to start. Searching for the truth takes time but it will help you avoid getting caught up in believing what’s untrue, even if it’s popular. You search for right is not only personal but necessary if you are ever to stand up against the tide of negative opinion and falsehood.
7. Do you cherish the opportunities that come to you because of your citizenship? Our freedom to choose and make more of ourselves is the opportunity presented to us all. Bemoaning the fact that someone has more of something than you is not the issue, nor is the solution loudly proclaiming what you deem to be unfair. Life on many fronts is not fair. Cherishing those opportunities and making the most of them is what compelled our founding fathers to dedicate their lives and fortune to pursuing those freedoms and to allow others to do the same.
8. Do you honor the rule of law or do you seek to become a law unto yourself?Our country was founded on laws that are to be applied equally to everyone. Sometimes it seems as though justice is ill-served. Nevertheless, the foundation of those laws allows us to be a free and civil society Those who would seek to become a law unto themselves are risking anarchy and destruction for the sole sake of personal aggrandizement and power. Honoring and sustaining the laws of the land helps to maintain order and assure freedom from oppression. And of course, our freedom allows us to change those laws for the common good.
9. Do you share “the American dream” or are your aspirations based on contempt for others?There is too much of comparing, competing, criticizing, complaining, and condemning. “The dream” was based on a vision of what every woman and man could become and was limited only by the confines of their thinking. Putting your energies and efforts toward improving yourself and helping others will serve to ennoble not only yourself but others along the way.
10. Are you controlled and restrained or given to excess and extravagance?Success in any measure requires self-discipline and deliberate effort. Gaining something for nothing will not develop the human spirit and character so many of our forbearers fought and died to preserve. Deciding what you want to become and pursuing that goal with industry, gratitude, and honor is the hallmark of a free society and nation.
Freedom in any land is the cornerstone of our opportunity to live and become that which we most desire. Those opportunities for ourselves and our families is dependent upon our efforts with the assistance of providence to be all that we can be. May we never lose sight of and be grateful for its institution wherever you find yourself.View Comments