When little Mercy was not allowed to enter the kitchen or step out of doors without either of her parents accompanying her, she felt caged. A precocious child with just six years of experience on planet earth, she failed to understand why her ‘freedom’ was curtailed. She shared with her Diary Pal how she wished to be free!
Neha was a new bride. Transition from a nuclear family of four to an extended household of twelve hasn’t been easy for her. With the burden of household work and practically no me-time, she wished she could be free.
Jimmy hated his schedule. Wake up early in the morning and exercise before school, heaps of assignments to complete after school, tuitions for helping raise his grades that have been spiraling downwards of late, prepare for periodic tests and sleep off. No time to play or watch TV. To top it all, his mobile has been confiscated by his well-meaning father. At fourteen, Jimmy craves for freedom.
We all have such Mercys, Nehas and Jimmys within us and around us. Oh to have the wings of a bird and fly freely in the sky! But, how do we respond when given such freedom? Freedom is treasured by those who know its worth. It is misused by people who do not value it.
In this article, I’ll focus on the flip side of freedom in relationships.
1. Taken for granted – Shackles are mere objects as many others that one sees around, unless used to bind a person. A shackled person knows the value of freedom like no other. For a person who has never been shackled, freedom doesn’t connote much. As a result there is not much accountability for overt behaviour – be it words or actions. Bonded labourers in faraway lands, treasure freedom when released because once upon a time their freedom was highly elusive. Freedom in relationships is often misused when it is taken for granted. Every relationship is governed by certain unspoken rules of life (besides the clearly charted out ones). These territories of unspoken jurisdiction are the ones which are taken for granted.
The very next day of marriage, the husband decides to make two cups of morning tea for himself and his new bride. This morning routine goes on for days, after which comes a day that he is taken sick. Now if the wife comes back from her morning walk and throws tantrums on not getting her cup of tea, this is precisely a ‘taken for granted’ attitude. Doesn’t this happen often?
2. Lies and Deceit – When freedom comes easy, lies and deceit creep in subtly untaught. Often such lying and deceit go unnoticed till there is a full-blown problem at hand.
A child is given INR 100 to buy certain essentials that the mother requires. On returning, he gives the account of the amount spent and says that he has dropped the remaining amount in the donation box kept in the shop to help an NGO that takes care of orphans. He scores brownie points before his mother for his act of compassion, while in reality he has pocketed the change as a saving for his piggy bank. Another young girl permitted by her parents to spend a night to study with her female friend just before exams, sneaks out to spend the night in her boyfriend’s apartment.
3. Indulgence – Well, this is essentially a foot in the door technique! A little freedom initially emboldens one for more freedom either with permission or with coercion and compulsion. This is a common predicament of the parents of many teenagers, among others. Let me cite a true incident of a young couple who had come to me for Counseling.
A lovestruck couple married young, when both were 21 years of age. After the initial craze of being with each other wore off, the husband felt that he didn’t want to be tied down. He wanted to spend time with his friends (who were of course still studying in college!). The thoughtful wife didn’t throw any tantrums and let her husband have some free time without her. Gradually, those one or two hours of being with friends increased to whole evenings and at times even to night outs, thus annoying the wife. They celebrated their first marriage anniversary with a newborn in their arms. Still the husband’s evening outings and night outs continued. They had their second child two years later. Yet, no change in the young husband’s behaviour and a resultant friction between the couple! A little well-intended freedom created enough room for irresponsible behaviour.
4. Indiscipline – High levels of permissiveness leave no room for accountability. Hence, certain behavioural patterns ensue, sans accountability. Lets consider the common sleep-wake schedules. Without the help of an alarm or a loved one to wake up, most people would end up waking at mid-day. And without a self-check or being prodded by someone to go to bed on time, most people would end up sleeping earlier or later than required and thus would have a chaotic next day at work. Perks of limitless freedom!
In parenting, permissiveness is known for very few guidelines and rules coupled with fulfilling of all the demands of children sans accountability. Thus, children of permissive parents end up exhibiting the same behaviour as adults in their personal relationships and at their workplaces. A couple who have the laissez-faire approach to life are likely to end up with deep resentment for each other within a short span of time simply because their freedom has created inroads to several unwanted guests like anger, jealousy, lack of schedule, etc.
The above four discussed ways of misusing freedom do not in anyway advocate against freedom in relationships. Freedom with responsibility is the freedom that is enjoyed best. Freedom sans boundaries leaves the gateway open for several intruders to invade into our lives and create unwanted pandemonium. After all, not all things that are permissible are beneficial.
The Bible says –
“I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is constructive.”