with freedom comes responsibility

As we go through the COVID-19 crisis, day-to-day life in many parts of the world has gotten slightly better. Either the lockdowns have been lifted or the restrictions have been relaxed to some extent. Even in the places where the cases haven’t seen a downward trend yet, people have been given more freedom in the general sense — to move, to go to their work, and to visit certain public places, of course, while taking all necessary precautions. 

We have all witnessed the perils and discomforts of strict confinement firsthand. And after experiencing those challenging and difficult times, it’s natural to expect that a majority of us would appreciate and respect the little freedoms that we have been finally given to restore some normality in our lives. But the unfortunate truth is that instead of celebrating these freedoms and complying with the health guidelines to keep themselves and other people safe, many people are abusing them.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

Wearing a mask. Social distancing. Sanitizing and washing your friends frequently. These are all wise and responsible things to do. And this is not only for our own well-being and safety, but for others’ as well. When we take care of ourselves, we also end up taking care of our friends, our loved ones and the people in our community. 

When you wear a mask, when you practice the health and safety guidelines religiously, you show others that you value and honor your freedom. You communicate to the world that you are responsible and mature, that you have no problem carrying your own weight. 

American preacher Peter Marshall said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” As you venture out today, keep this in the back of your head that the freedom that you’re enjoying currently comes with a great civic responsibility — to do the right thing, and to do whatever it takes to keep yourself and others safe.

Freedom isn’t free, it always comes with a price. You might have to embrace certain discomforts, make some tough decisions, and practice sound judgment and common sense when others don’t. You’ll have to master your weaker self and practice the virtues of self-control and discipline. You’ll have to act wise and mature even when the most powerful and influential people in your country and on the planet don’t.

Don’t give in to pluralistic ignorance. Don’t let other people’s irrational opinions and actions get you on the wrong path. Believe in your own wisdom and your own power. As Seneca said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” 

Embrace your freedom, but also embrace the challenge that comes with it and take absolute responsibility for your behaviors and actions. 

Just focus on doing the right thing, whatever the costs. That’s the best way to fight this crisis, and take care of each other as we go through it.