Freedom and Virtue

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Benjamin Franklin said, “Only virtuous people are capable of freedom.” If you know how to behave then you are more free because you don’t need rules to be imposed on you. You have your own self-governing rules. You already have those inner rules within you and you don’t need rules outside of you to restrict you. One of the purpose of rules is for discipline. If people can’t discipline themselves, it would be the government who will impose it through rules and regulations. But the problem sometimes is that the government imposes too much rules that it stifles the freedom of its citizens to attain their true good. Another purpose of rules is to attain virtue but if the government restricts the practice of religion for example, much like in a communist country, it would hinder its people from attaining its ultimate good who is God.

As a brief review, we’ve said that virtue are good habits and the opposite of virtue are vices which are defined as bad habits. Examples of virtues are honesty, humility, hard work or diligence, patience, punctuality, spirit of serving others, generosity, etc.  And examples of vices are pride or selfishness, laziness, lying, anger, greed, and the more notorious ones that are addictions at the same time are abuse of illegal drugs, gambling, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, etc.

Ironically, addicts are actually the ones who are less free. Although they are the ones who are insistent on their freedom, and would often tell those who would reprimand them to leave them alone, they have lost their freedom because they have become enslaved to their vices. It’s their vices that control them and they have lost their freedom to grow spiritually, professionally, psychologically, academically, socially, etc.  “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins, is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

There are two kinds of freedom. Freedom from coercion and freedom from error. The first is a pre-requisite to the second. We need freedom from coercion before we could have freedom from error. Freedom from coercion means no one is forcing us, hindering us or threatening us to make a choice. But true freedom lies in freedom from error which also includes freedom from sin and vices. If you want to learn math for example, you’ll have to follow the rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. If you don’t, you can’t solve any math problem. This is what freedom from error means, knowing and obeying the rules so as to achieve your desired goal, in this case learn math. The rules of math do not hinder your freedom but on the contrary facilitates it, for you to attain your goal of learning math. The same thing applies with our lives. If you want a peaceful, happy and harmonious life which is everyone’s goal, you ought to abide by the rules of life. The rules of life are the Ten Commandments, of which I’ve also said are not just a series of “don’ts” but also an invitation to the “dos” of life which is to practice the virtues.  When our Lord Jesus Christ said, “The truth shall set your free” (John 8:32), He meant that knowing the truth or the rules of our lives will set us free. Christ offers us that freedom especially freedom from the slavery of sin and misery. We also have to remember that the truth is Christ Himself.   Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  (John 14:6) In other words, it is Christ who really sets us free when we develop a close relationship with Him.

The virtues are hard to practice at first but will get easier along the way. You will also reap the reward of virtues later on as you become accustomed to it or as it becomes part of who you are. As you practice the virtues, you will realize that your life becomes more peaceful, more harmonious, many of your goals in life are achieved and life becomes happier as a whole. And virtue is not just its own reward but it also rewards the people around you.