We all desire to be free—speak our mind, be where we want to be and do what we want, when we want to.
We all want to be free to choose and free to change our minds.
The freedom to choose is a wonderful gift and enjoying this gift is your right as an individual. With the freedom though comes a responsibility … to use this choice—wisely.
What happens when a choice results in breaking a commitment?
Sometimes we’re faced with situations where we want to pack up and leave—just leave everything behind and start fresh. And of course that is possible.
But at what cost?
When can we break a commitment and accept the cost?
This is the question I asked myself after an experience that I’d like to share with you in this article.
A few months ago, I subscribed to an online writer who marketed himself as cutting edge. I was curious about what the future holds so I financially supported a project he announced with the understanding that it will be written and then updated on a regular basis.
After a short outline and within a few weeks, this writer decided that the whole thing was obsolete. He deleted the email list and stopped all updates. Just like that!
I felt betrayed and disappointed. I paid a premium for the representation that the work was going to be created and updated. There was really no point in saying I want my money back. It was the price of the experience and it wasn’t worth my time.
But the point that struck me is: how do we continue to freely make decisions while still honoring our commitments?
The answer is not a simple one solution fits all. It depends on the situation and the people involved. Let’s take the example of the experience I had above.
How would I’ve liked the situation to be handled?
Ideally I would’ve liked the writer whose work I supported to do the following.
1. Ask for feedback.
Upon realizing that he didn’t wish to continue with the project, he could’ve asked the readers what they would like to see happen and how can the work be still useful.
Maybe that would’ve inspired more relevant work. If not, the readers would feel included in the process and not just left behind.
2. Offer a refund for the change.
The price charged for a book that gets updated was higher than an average book that gets published once, plus the book wasn’t even written yet. If the author decides to change his mind, it’s only fair that he offers the readers a refund. And it’s a sign of goodwill and respect.
I think I would’ve felt much better about the situation and maybe supported the writer in a different way.
A few thoughts about freedom
As I tried to articulate my thoughts about this experience I came up with a few thoughts that I hope can help in the pursuit of freedom.
Freedom is not free.
Freedom has a price that we will pay, no matter what.
It might be monetary. Or it might cost more than money, like losing someone’s trust.
Committing to freedom is a form of commitment.
We are never really without some form of commitment. We commit to ourselves when we decide to choose a certain direction.
We commit to others when the decision involves them.
One can say living is a commitment to being here and making the best of our existence.
Abandoning a commitment for the sake of freedom does not necessarily mean we’re evolving.
When I think of freedom, I think of freedom from attachment and expectations and being at peace. That’s not always true.
The desire to move from a situation can be a result of restlessness or dissatisfaction that’s completely based on unrealistic or overly optimistic expectations of something new and shiny.
The breaker of a commitment bears a responsibility.
One can walk a way from a marriage, a career, a friendship, a business, or anything else. We pay a price for our decision, but in all likelihood someone else will pay a price too.
If breaking a commitment is the right thing to do, then we need to do it with empathy and compassion.
We need to consider the other party’s feelings and situation. How would it feel to be on the other side of the relationship?
This doesn’t mean though that we feel guilty or bad for the other person, far from it. We do our part with integrity, and respect the other person’s right to make his or her own choice.
Freedom is precious and that’s why it comes at an expensive price. We are most free when we make our choices from a deeper place and commit to our truth.
If (or when) things change, we can change course, fully aware of the cost and the impact, not only on ourselves, but also on the world around us.
Walk away from a commitment if it feels right. But make sure you don’t leave someone behind to deal with the consequences. It’s a karmic debt that you will have to repay, sooner or later.