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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Surest Pathway to Freedom

An essential quality for human behavior is the ability to morph the structure of self-presentation to the requirements of the situation.  Some might disparagingly call this being a chameleon or lacking individual integrity.  Consider the words of Saint Paul: 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV) “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  Surely Saint Paul is not suggesting that we become a person without a moral anchor, but he is suggesting that we must concentrate on essentials.  I went to prison in 1968 over the Vietnam War.  Obviously, during my time in prison I was confronted by the question “What is essential in maintaining moral fiber and integrity?”  It is quite unwise to maintain in prison a milquetoast persona.  One must have a spine and be ready at any time to stand up to attempted coercion from prison politics.  Luckily, I did not get into any fights, but this result was something I did not have absolute control over.  I had to count on the final goodwill of even those who would be bullies.

Getting down to essentials usually involves a clipping of excesses.  We think at the outset, “How can we do without this or that?”  By just clipping it back a third or so, we often find what is left will outperform our greatest expectations.  Paradoxically, ridding ourselves of excesses greatly increases our effectiveness and options.  Increased efficiencies make possible the seeming impossible.  However counterintuitive the gains from cutbacks may seem, sometimes it is the only way out.  Self-control remains the surest pathway to freedom.

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