“Whose Freedom?”

Chaplain’s Cornerwhitman padre

Padre Andrew Whitman

You finally get a break and go away for a weekend to a resort in the Rockies, rent a suite to share with a few of your old friends. You leave right after work and have a long drive, and it’s pretty late by the time you show up. Your friends are there waiting for you, and happy to see you again; it’s a joyful reunion. You bring your luggage in and arrange yourselves and freshen up a bit so you can join your friends for a drink on the patio and catch up for a bit before heading to bed. But just as the conversation is getting interesting, some crotchety old guy pops his head up over the ledge of your balcony and grumbles “kEeP iT dOwN, pEoPlE aRe TrYiNg To SlEeP hErE!”

Out of respect, of course, you say, “Sorry; sorry” and head inside (After all, you’re Canadian). But you think, “Man, I paid for this room, I only have a few days with my friend, I didn’t mean to bother anybody. What gives him the right? I have a right to sit on the porch of my rented room and have a conversation with my friends.”


You finally get a break and go away for a week to a resort in the Rockies with your young family. Beautiful scenery, a nice little brook for the kids to play in, and a cozy living arrangement. You get all the kids bundled into bed after a day of activity, and lie down exhausted. Then, at 1:30 in the morning, it starts. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, Schoooomp. Schooomp. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Your spouse is a light sleeper, gives you a nudge. 20 Minutes. Half an hour. Thump, thump, thump. Schoomp.

Schoomp. “OK, sure, they’re getting in late. They’re putting their stuff in drawers… I guess?? Does it take this long?” More of this. “Murmle, murmle, murmle.” It’s 2:30 in the morning. Did they turn the TV on? Couldn’t be. They’re talking. Loudly, if you can hear it downstairs. Well, they must be going to bed soon, and you’re Canadian, so don’t want to inconvenience anybody. “Murmle, murmle, murmle. Schooomp. Thump, thump, thump.” They’re out on the deck! Coming in and out, and scraping their chairs back and forth, and talking, rather loudly. It’s 3 in the morning. So you get up, go out onto the deck, climb up on the railing and suavely say, “We appreciate you including us in your conversation, but would you mind keeping it down?” They immediately apologize and duck inside, but you think, “Man, the nerve of some people. I paid for this room to have a rest with my family. I have a right to a good night’s sleep. If they want to keep us all night, I know where I’m dropping off my pre-schooler for babysitting at 6 in the morning!”

There is a fantasy that every one of us has a right to absolute freedom. “Everyone should be free to choose whatever they want”, we say. But the reality is that it is impossible to give one person freedom without taking freedom from another. Even in this simple case, one could not have the freedom to a good night’s sleep without taking away the other’s freedom to catch up with their friends, or vice versa. In the Bible, it says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24) There is freedom within boundaries, while the pursuit of freedom will make you a slave. There is greater freedom in love than in self-service. And there is freedom from self-serving through the saviour who served us at the cost of himself.

andrew.whitman@forces.gc.ca