It is said that one’s freedom ends when the right of another begins.
The exercise of one’s freedom, then, even if it entails boundlessness, is not absolute.
Responsibility in relationships is the best context for understanding freedom and its appropriate exercise. Yes, there is such a thing as “responsible freedom.”
That is why boundaries abound since we are beings in relationships, all the time.
There are boundaries inherently and naturally perceptible. There are also invisible boundaries — such kinds are very dangerous. Fact is, they cannot be seen and perceived on our part through close-mindedness, through our unwillingness to understand and learn, or relearn or even unlearn things that need to be changed. This happens most especially when reality gets blocked by our ego.
Hence, these boundaries are really self-imposed. We have biases against certain persons or groups of people, sets and systems of values, traits, practices, tenets, and even traditions and beliefs. These in themselves mark out boundaries to begin with.
Boundaries are burdensome and painful when we fail to recognize its sense and purpose. They provide us with certain discomforts hard to imagine and more difficult to deal with, and much more harder to accept. Boundaries are inconvenient truths we have to acknowledge and live with.
The case presented in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) is just a scratch on the surface of the whole discourse on boundaries and self-imposed biases that we have on other people, even with those close to us. Despite the clarity illustrated to him, the scholar of the law, who is a Jew, has still much to learn, to relearn, and even to unlearn his bias against the Samaritans. When asked by Jesus who he thinks was “neighbor” to the robbers’ victim, he could not even say “The Samaritan.” Instead he said, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Only love expressed in mercy and compassion can break boundaries without inflicting pain despite the difficulties involved in the process. And it takes time to learn, relearn and even unlearn.
It is “selfless” love that knows no boundaries.
After all it is selfishness that builds all boundaries while at the same time unwillingly accepts limitations. It is the ego that hinders a free and responsible exercise of doing good to others and in following the will of God in humble and truthful service.
The antidote to selfishness is generosity and humility in one’s freedom.
Let this Prayer for Generosity, attributed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, be always our guide and strength in the face of obstacles where the ego is involved: “Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as I should — to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and ask not for reward; save that of knowing that I do Your Most Holy Will.” Amen!
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