“Your freedom stops where other people’s freedom starts”. ~Don D. Battaglini
This simple sentence stuck with me like glue since the first time I heard it, back when I was seven years old, during Bible study. I don’t think Don Battaglini ever realized the impact his words had on his young pupils, but I can still remember that moment as if it took place yesterday.
Don Battaglini was one of those priests who don’t come by very often. I remember him as always being old; hair as white as snow, deep-set, soft brown eyes, and the strong voice of a tenor. He never indulged nonsense, but he was ALWAYS available for important issues. The day he uttered those words was one of those winter days that never seem to draw to an end. It was raining out, and I can still recall the sound of the rain drops rhythmically hitting the window pane. It was one of those days that truly deserve the label of “boring”.
Then, I heard those words and they changed my young life. From that moment on, every time I thought about doing anything, I always wondered if I was intruding in someone else’s freedom, and more times than one those very same words saved me from overstepping my boundaries.
We are free to make choices, but so are other people. We have the right to voice our opinion, but we must acknowledge that other people have opinions, too. We may choose a certain type of lifestyle, but we must mind the fact that, although we are free to decide how we live, we must allow others the space they need to live out their own choices.
So, where is the fine line between our freedom and that of others?
Ultimately, the best rule to follow is the old golden one: “Don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t want done unto you”. And again, it is about walking a mile into someone else’s shoes.
We have the right to have a party with our friends, but we would not like for someone else to wake us up from a sound sleep; maybe, we can try to keep things down a bit, or at least let our neighbors know of our plans. Most people, if warned ahead, will be amenable to accommodating different things. If we love to drink, then we shouldn’t drive or be obnoxious. Although we have the right to enjoy a drink, people have the freedom to live out their life. If we are fervidly religious, we should be thankful that God is so prominent in our lives, yet we should not push our beliefs unto others who have the freedom to not believe, or believe something else.
We are here all together, all participants in the great field trip on earth that life is. We can make our journey a little more pleasant by just showing a little respect; both toward ourselves and others. Maybe then, we will learn to fight a little less, love a little more, and really be free.