3 Lies Students Believe About Freedom That Will Ruin Their Lives

Our culture worships freedom. The only problem is that real freedom doesn’t mean what most people think it means. And the next generation of students are paying the price because they are being robbed of the life they are really after.

True happiness–“flourishing”–is only possible if students are able to break free from the lies and embrace genuine freedom.

3 Lies Students Believe About Freedom

(1) My choices only affect me. “You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt someone.” This slogan is everywhere! Our culture perpetuates this lie but you need to know there are several fatal flaws with this way of thinking. First and foremost it assumes that you can’t hurt yourself with your own choices (this could be a whole blog in itself!).

But more importantly, your unwise choices can unleash significant collateral damage on those around you. A selfish choice has relational consequences. Just ask the millions of kids who have grown up in broken homes because Mom or Dad exercised their freedom to do what they wanted. As the Scripture teaches, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

(2) My feelings are the truest expression of who I am. If freedom is our culture’s peanut butter, then feelings are the jelly. One of the most dangerous lies a student can believe is that how he or she feels determines reality. Feelings are powerful, but they are very often wrong.

Dallas Willard speaks to the disastrous effects of this lie:

“In the “modern” condition, feeling will come to exercise almost total mastery over the individual. This is because people in that condition will have to constantly decide what they want to do, and feeling will be all they have to go on. Here lies the secret to understanding contemporary Western life and its peculiar proneness to gross immoralities and addictions. People are overwhelmed with decisions and can only make those decisions on the basis of feelings.”

Our young people have come of age in a society that says how you feel determines what’s real. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (in)famously said:

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life…”

Wow! What could possibly go wrong with that? Other than the fact that our feelings are constantly changing…nothing at all. Feelings are important and God-given. But they cannot be relied upon to lead us toward the good, the true, and the beautiful if our character has not been formed by God’s Word.

(3) My life is for me. This is one of the biggest lies of the modern world. The individual–the satisfaction of our own desires–is the ultimate goal of life. The unfettered and unimpeded pursuit of me. The problem is that you and I are too small to live for. We will end up consuming ourselves in the process (the Bible’s word for this is “sin”).

We will end up with hollow souls if we pursue this path. Why? Because we were created for community and to be part of God’s Kingdom story (cf. Matt. 6:33). We were created to serve, love, and give. Any understanding of meaning and purpose devoid of these truths is deficient.

The irony is that the more we pursue our own individual happiness the more elusive true happiness becomes. I talk more about how this plays out in students’ lives and how to remedy this during the crucial high school and college years. The bottom line is that no matter how loudly our culture says otherwise, a life oriented around yourself is doomed from the beginning.

The Truth About Freedom

The truth of the matter is that we will never truly be free unless we cooperate with God’s design for reality (including our human nature as an “image bearer” cf. Gen. 1:27-28). George MacDonald captured this well:

“There is no such thing in the world as liberty, except under the law of liberty; that is, the acting according to the essential law of our being—not feelings which come and go.”

Where did he get that? From the Bible.

“I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”—Psalm 119:45

True freedom has boundaries, limits, and guardrails. Why? Because we don’t create reality with our choices or freedoms.

We use our freedom to more fully become who we were created to be. And that’s the truth about freedom that our culture–and the enemy of our souls who came to steal, kill, and destroy doesn’t want any of us to know–especially students.