Freedom, the lack of it, the excess of it, or the abuse of it, is an undercurrent of the culture wars of today. Everyone wants it, everyone pretty much gets resentful when someone else uses it, and what it means for one person doesn’t necessarily hold for another. Nevertheless, what is freedom to the Christian?
True freedom is freedom from sin. Sin cuts us off from God. Sin prevents us from fulfilling our potential as true adopted children of God. Sin is an offense against God and also an offense against other people’s dignity and our own.
No one is sinless, and we all suffer from the effects of sin and of repeatedly falling into a state of sin (concupiscence). Nevertheless the struggle to resist temptation mirrors the struggle for freedom. We all struggle to get what we want that we think would make us “free.”. It may be things we feel we are entitled to and things we are responsible for and take care of and things we are obligated to do. Responsibilities and obligations do not curtail our freedom, despite the fact that in fulfilling them, we may not be doing what we’d prefer. Selfishness is an abuse of freedom. We are not isolated individuals, we are a part of a community of people (although that seems hard to fathom at times) and our freedom should not really be at the expense of others.
The struggle against the flesh, a war fought from Adam and Eve’s time that manifests itself most vividly today in the culture wars (Life versus “Choice”, Christianity versus the World, etc.) is a battle fraught with pain and anxiety. The constant war against temptations, difficult to do in the excessively sexualized Western countries, has damaged individuals and societies.
For those of us addicted to something, we remember the relief we felt when we succumbed to the addiction. Perhaps we realized that we drank too much and tried to stop, either by our own efforts or through a 12 Step program. We tried real hard, resisting the urge to drink and remember feeling trapped by our desires. Relief was all that we desired, but it was to no avail until we drank again. And then we felt free.
But it was a false freedom, for we remained trapped by the addiction. The temporary relief sufficed for a while, and after a period of time we felt the draw to drink again. We might struggle against the temptation, and we might win or succumb again depending upon circumstances.
But the temptation is often there. As it is with us now after a period of sobriety, the temptation for something is not far away. I remember a few years ago I was feeling frustrated in my sobriety, that I couldn’t “do anything fun.” I remember praying to have a “safe vice.”
Nowadays many people are cross-addicted, (addicted to several things). Quite often sex or pornography is the other addiction.
As I said above it is hard to resist such things in the hyper-sexualized world of today.
There are no easy answers in how to cope with temptation. No quick and easy solutions. Satan will keep hammering away at you until he succeeds. There is temporary respite in the form of prayer, Bible reading, attending Mass or Adoration, or going to Confession. Once I immerse myself in “Church stuff” such as those, I feel the wolves have been scared away. I feel more fully reconnected to God and holiness and I feel truly free. I feel close to God and the community of the Church, I feel more like the way I am supposed to be. Truly free, unencumbered by the shackles of addiction or temptation or desires of the world.
There may be some value in temptation. Satan isn’t going to bother with you if you are in his clutches. If you are in a state of mortal sin, he won’t bother tempting you. You already belong to him. Even if you have committed only a number of venial sins, he may not bother you that much. Not to imply that that there is a formula like ‘x’ number of venial sins = 1 mortal sin, but the cumulative effect of numerous venial sins may make it easier for you to commit a mortal sin. Sort of like a snowball effect, it gets bigger and bigger unless it is checked. You become prone to immorality, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself deeper in it. So, temptation may be a sign of your holiness. Do some “Church stuff” and increase the holiness. It helps you to rebound after you do sin. This is what defined the saints. Sure, they all lead holy lives of heroic virtue. They needed heroism to be victorious over sin. They always picked themselves up after a fall.
So that is it. Like the contradiction of the Cross, wherein death brings life:
1 Corinthians 1:23: “But we are preaching Christ crucified. Certainly, to the Jews, this is a scandal, and to the Gentiles, this is foolishness.”
Truth is sometimes confounding. God’s Truth usually confounds human reason to the point of seeming ridiculous. So it is with “true freedom,” it is not what we normally think it is."The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"