I will never forget the first time I made my mom cry. I had told her I didn’t know if I believed in God. To someone who had spent years trying to “raise me right,” there wasn’t a more devastating phrase I could have uttered.
I used to think that my journey to liberty began when I started to learn economics and follow politics. As my understanding of liberty has deepened, I know it began much earlier.
You see, I grew up within a Christian group with traditions that were far more antiquated and legalistic than the typical standards of most of the familiar denominations of Christianity. To put it politely, the lifestyle would seem a bit odd to most people. The members stick to strict codes of dress and conduct, avoiding television, internet, and many other things they think could “corrupt” them. Every detail of our lives was regulated by this group and to question wasn’t just discouraged, it was considered a blatant sin.
I remember the whispered conversations late at night when my little sister, Emily, would crawl into my bed. We would talk about the big questions of life. I don’t think we ever discussed government policies, yet we were discovering liberty by questioning the forms of authority we saw.
We had an agreement, and I would repeat it often so she didn’t forget. “Don’t tell mom I said this.” To me, it was bad enough for my mom to cry because she thought I was going to hell. The last thing I wanted was mom blaming me for my innocent sister’s supposed descent into the fiery pits!
Looking at my family now, I realize that Emily was wiser than me. Although she kept our agreement, Emily spoke up with her reasoned and sincere thoughts and questions. Humbly, she sought to understand, not just to be “right.” Over time, my family members stopped believing in the group’s authority over their lives. The rigid mandates began to look more and more ridiculous. We all live a completely different lifestyle now and enjoy a more open and understanding approach to the world.
The reaction I often get, and perhaps your first thought, might be that my family was just crazy… maybe just a few fries short of a happy meal if you know what I’m saying. How could they hold on to such a rigid belief system at their own expense? Yet, the reality is that they aren’t that much different from most people.
Their problem is not unique to religions, Democrats, Republicans, or any other group. It’s a human problem. Our minds prefer the known to the unknown. We are most comfortable believing what is accepted within our social group and other institutions than stepping into the unknown.
This is the real challenge of liberty. Questioning only the state will not liberate us! We must question all forms of arbitrary authority over our lives through an open mind, reason, and kindness. We should approach not just our careers or our politics, but our entire lives, in an entrepreneurial way. Only then can we know liberty.