In America we have an extraordinary amount of freedom. So much so that it can be stressful. Psychologists and marketers call it overchoice when too many options become paralyzing rather than empowering. A simple example of this is when it comes to food: It can take someone their whole lunch hour to narrow their meal decision down to just three options from the overwhelmingly exhaustive and diverse Cheesecake Factory menu! Conversely, those that have visited less developed countries may tell you how beautifully relieving it can be to spend time in a place where food choices aren’t as plentiful.
In America, we arguably have not only unlimited choices of food, but unlimited choices as to how we spend our time and with whom. Consider: some Americans make a diet of fast food, others, salads; some spend their time contributing to society, others draining; some suffer in isolation and others find community. It may be easier in other countries to eat healthier, farm-fresh meals; to be directed to a place in society; to be inserted into a supportive community. These advantages may happen with little effort or even knowledge of those in other countries because it is built into the culture and society of those other countries. But, does that necessarily mean that built-in is better? Maybe not. It may be simpler to life life by default rather than choosing a path from a plethora of options. But, I would rather have the freedom to make my own path, even if it comes with the burden of choice. It’s one of the many ways that freedom is not cheap.
What is built into American culture is independence. We fiercely fight for the ability to do whatever we choose; and sometimes we struggle with the responsibility that comes with that privilege. Sometimes we squander it. But, as spiderman was told, with great power comes great responsibility. Better to be given an opportunity to squander than not to be entrusted at all.
Discussion question: Do you feel the “burden of freedom” in your own life? How or why not?