Thursday, February 19, 2015


“I brought a lot of hurt onto myself in the name of liberation.”

A friend of mine wrote this to me in an email not too long ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. It is one of the most comprehensive and profound statements about being human I have ever come across. “I brought a lot of hurt onto myself in the name of liberation.”

Walt Whitman wrote, “From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines.” As a human being who has often found herself through fate and circumstance put into categories and boxes, I love this quote so much that I have it inscribed on a bracelet. What a glorious thought. Beholden to no one, unboxed and free from having to conform to anyone else’s values or ideals, or even our own values and ideals, it is the song of our culture. We are encouraged to live unfettered and responsible only to ourselves. There is nothing we like less than being defined and confined – being, as Renee Russo says in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’, “a foregone conclusion.” Whitman seems to put his finger exactly on the pulse of our deepest desire.

However, we rarely stop to consider the consequences of our apparent liberation. Like my friend, too often the thing that we think will free us becomes the very thing that hurts and enslaves us. The examples of this are endless, but here is my own very personal one. I have taken to calling last year my lost year. I began to feel the weight of my life and relationships as a crushing one, one that limited who I thought I wanted to be. In an act of rebellion disguised as freedom, I began to make choices for myself… choices that “liberated” me from my relationships and allowed me to avoid responsibilities that made me feel boxed in. With every choice I was sure that I would experience freedom. Instead what I found was an increasing sense of isolation, loneliness and depression. Entirely apart from the hurt I caused to my family and my friends, I brought a lot of hurt onto myself in the name of liberation.

As some of you know, it is Lent…a time when we voluntarily restrict ourselves, confine or limit our choices, in order to find a way to pay closer attention to God and to our neighbor. During Lent we intentionally to say no to a freedom and in doing so we make it possible to see that we may actually be slaves to our “freedoms”. The woman who gives up makeup for example, though it’s certainly no sin, suddenly finds that she has been a slave to the lie of perfection and beauty-based worth. The man who surrenders his after work beer, again no sin there, is dismayed to realize that it doesn’t just take the edge off a long day, but takes him out of being fully present to his family in a low-level fog. Even the person giving up their favorite snack, who loses the five pounds they have wanted to lose for a year, finds that the food they treated themselves to is what has hurt them physically for so long. These seem to be simple things, but they have far reaching consequences. How much more so the choices we make in “freedom” regarding our hearts. We bring a lot of hurt onto ourselves in the name of liberation.

Lent is a good time to honestly and frankly consider our lives. Where are you holding onto a “freedom” that is hurting you in the long run? Or put another way, where are you experiencing hurt now? If you follow that hurt to its source, is there a false freedom at its root? These are hard questions to ask. They are, however, good ones to ask. Maybe even necessary ones. Because it turns out that we bring a lot of hurt onto ourselves in the name of liberation.

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