Freedom: ‘From Constraint’ ‘For Perfection’

Fulton Sheen speaks of the different types of freedom.  He rightly identifies an overemphasis on the freedom from constraint in Western society, while during the time he was speaking, communism was overemphasizing the freedom for perfection.  The balance of the two are oftentimes innate within each of us, but more often than not leaders tilt the scale too far toward one side.

What are the results of such an imbalance?  When autonomy is too featured, autonomy is abused.  People habituate themselves to vices which they find pleasurable, without any clarity on how to properly exercise their autonomy.  They become pilgrims on a journey but they have no destination.  They’re just walking.  Fulton Sheen uses the analogy of a ship without a rudder or port – just motoring atop the open seas.  One could imagine the feelings of sailors on this ship.  After a while, their sense of freedom is completely gone, and all that is left is a sense of slavery.  These sailors are alcoholics, sex addicts, adulterers, drug abusers, gluttons , lazy, hostile, etc.  They’re each on their own ship – without rudder, without port, without direction, without purpose – and they are surely enslaved in the shackles of vice.

Whereas when the freedom for perfection is too featured, all too often authorities posit material perfection through a limiting of human choice.  This is communism.  But to present an alternative example to communism, this can be a corporate barony.  Capitalism has historically spawned companies which promise perfection.  Workers are pigeon-holed into one role for the sake of efficiency, while they and the entire company make their money.  Not all is wrong with this if the workers balance their working life with other, more vital aspects of life.  They become skilled at their one duty, but other skills integral to human development are neglected, and their development must be developed elsewhere than  at or through the workplace, lest those skills be left to atrophy and die.  And when those skills are rendered  dead by neglect, a part of freedom is also rendered dead, because without development which aids in human perfection, there is no freedom.  The fact is that authority which claims perfection by limiting choice isn’t perfection at all, for human perfection is a free choice for the perfect, which of course requires the free choosing of acts which develop into intellectual, and more importantly, moral virtues.

Fulton Sheen better explains this link of freedom from constraint and freedom for perfection.

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