The Freedom to Be Who We Are

BEING ABLE TO BE WHO WE ARE BORN TO BE IS A BASIC HUIMAN RIGHT. Having the freedom and support to explore all that we are and can be is essential to the end result: a fully-functioning and fulfilled human being. Some societies may say that of course they are free, that people have the freedom to be who they are and come and go as they please—so long as they are not gay, so long as they practice the same kind of religion as the main group, and so long as they don’t stray far from the expectations of the tribe. Or, for women in certain countries, so long as they don’t want to drive, play sports, or get educated, or marry whom and when they choose, and likewise for divorce.
      These may be extreme examples, but in our own homes, towns and communities all over the country, there are people who are afraid to be who they really are. Coming out as gay can mean being ostracized by your community and losing your family, even your job; deciding you don’t want to be a doctor like your father or you are not cut out to take over the family business means you are shunned by your nearest and dearest; and realizing you are a creative soul—such as an artist, musician, actor, or dancer—can mean severe repercussions in some conservative families. These are all ways that our basic human rights are being denied.
      When we have children, we give them life, and that also means we allow them to have a life—their life—not the life we want them to have. When we have kids, we have no idea who they are going to be, but that should be part of the fun of having them—the joy of witnessing a young human being blossom into maturity and personal power and delivering their own special gift to the world. But I have seen a respected educator crushed when his first-born son turned out to be a drag queen; a wealthy East-coast entrepreneur who was devastated when his son went to Hawaii to become a surfer and massage therapist; and countless women who were upset when their daughters choose a career path rather than get married and provide a brood of grandchildren. As I found out in the 12-Step meetings I used to attend, the pain caused by this kind of judgment is real and life-long. It was evident especially around the holidays, when the depression would set in before November arrived. “Do I have to go ‘home’ and face the criticism? But I’ll feel guilty if I don’t go. And if I don’t take my girlfriend/boyfriend, we’ll have to spend the holidays apart!” It was heart wrenching to hear these concerns.
      So I will conclude by reiterating that the most important thing we can do for those we love is to accept them for who they are. The repercussions if we don’t can be huge — it causes anguish that can result in illness, mental disturbance, substance abuse, and suicide.

On Children

by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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