The Last Place You Might Expect Greater Freedom

Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

She did not even deny it.  That was the most unusual and impressive thing….

You know when a public figure has to deal with an old skeleton or some breaking news their first instinct is to deny or explain it away? Watergate, deflate-gate, whatever-gate.  We keep unlearning how the cover up can be worse than the lapse in judgment causing the scandal.

So when the news hit some years back about photos of Dr. Laura Schlessinger in the buff and she did not deny it, I had to admire her. Actually, she leaned into it and captured a very dramatic, teachable moment. She said something that sticks with me to this day: 

“When I was young, I was my own moral authority.  The inadequacy of that is painfully obvious today.”

We often assume that less authority is the path to greater authenticity and freedom. Power structure limits us—whether the landlord, the police car skulking behind a bush in the median, or the IRS.

So how could some outside moral authority (scripture or faith community) make me anything but a lemming? Folk singer Cat Steven’s expressed it as baby boomers came of age, left for college, or just left— “From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”  Think of your first solo trip in a car, first plane flight, first apartment–all these suggest freedom comes by loosening ties that bind.

But Dr. Laura says she found greater freedom in accountability.  How could that be?

Reminds me of a powerful experiment about boundaries and freedom.  I never would have guessed these results.  Across the country social scientists began to study the habits of children at recess, giving them many toys and plenty of room.  At each school, students tended to remain in close proximity to the buildings, ignoring the vast space beyond them.  But after fences were  built on the perimeter of the yard, far past where kids would venture, in every case, these same groups of students spread out into the grounds.  The boundaries limited their potential to roam, but they brought freedom to thrive and play.  Could there be an actual design to human life that seems limiting but brings maximum freedom?

Have you ever given something up, some measure of independence, and found greater freedom?  Where do you see the opposite today?