Stay with me on this, OK?
I want to have an open and searching conversation today — and I really hope you’ll join me! — about this idea.
How does it strike you when you hear these words:
“I’m tired of being good. Now all I want is to be free.”
Does that line thrill you, the way it thrills me? Or does it scare you? Or does it make you feel suspicious, or even angry?
I heard this line a few months ago, from a friend of mine who is — simply put — one of the most good people I know. She has spent her entire life working hard every single waking moment to be kind, responsible, loving, forgiving, understanding, self-sacrificing, loyal, honest, decent, tidy, reliable, polite, and respectable.
And she’s exhausted.
Because none of this has left her feeling FREE. Although her goodness is indisputable, her freedom remains frustratingly out of reach. She’s starting to rethink the whole game. And when I saw the look on her face as she said this line — a look of gorgeous hunger, ferocious longing — I recognized myself in her words.
I recognized in her my own hunger. I recognized my own ferocious longing. I recognized my own frustration that I am not yet as free as I wish to be…even though I know that I am a GOOD PERSON, damn it.
Here is what I want to ask you today: What would happen inside your mind if you let go (just for a moment!) of trying to be a GOOD PERSON, and you imagined instead what it would feel like to be a FREE PERSON?
Don’t panic, everyone! It’s just an exercise! You don’t have to change anything about your life today… I’m just asking you to imagine taking “good” off the table for a moment, and replacing it with “free”.
You all have limitless imaginations. Try to imagine it.
Imagine replacing “good” with “free”.
Would you have the same life? Would you make the same choices? Would you still be in the same relationships? Would you have the same job? Would you live in the same town? Would your days look like they look now? Would you feel the way you feel now?
Does this exercise make you feel thrilled and liberated and inspired? Or terrified and small? Or resentful and angry? Or some combination of them all?
I was talking about this concept the other day with my friend Glennon Doyle Melton, on the final episode of my MAGIC LESSONS podcast. We were talking about the prisons that people (especially women) put themselves into, which prevent them from living expansive and creative lives. We were talking about the burden of perfectionism, for instance, which becomes a highly polished prison, with golden bars. I quoted to her the John Steinbeck line: “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” We both delighted in the liberation of that line. But then I took it a step further, and quoted my friend’s line of yearning and frustration: “I’m tired of being good. Now all I want is to be free.”
What if that’s the next step?
What if it starts with you spending years trying to be perfect, and then you give up on perfect, and just settle for being good? What if that is the first step of liberation? What if that is pretty awesome?
But what if you can go even further? What if you can move even closer to liberation? What if you gave up trying to be good, and just tried to be FREE?
I know what you’re thinking. (Or at least I think I know what you’re thinking!) You’re thinking: “What what about morality? What about ethics? What about duty?” Your mind is imagining the slippery slope that could happen, if you focused on being FREE, instead of being GOOD. Does this mean you will slide into complete decadence, selfishness, narcissism, abandon, and even evil? Did you just imagine yourself turning into Hitler?
What if it DOESN’T mean that, though?
What if you were to believe that — at the very fundament of your being — you are ALREADY good?
I’m willing to bet that you are already good. I know you guys. I know that you are all really nice, kind, generous, loving people, who would never hurt another living soul. What if we could assume that — if you decided to try to be free — you would never descend into evil, hateful, greedy, savagery? What if choosing freedom didn’t turn you into a monster, but instead turned you into a relaxed, healthy, friendly, and fully liberated human being, who trusts herself enough to create her own code of ethics?
Also, Glennon made an excellent point about goodness vs. freedom, when we talked about it on my podcast. She pointed out that society, culture, religion, and family make the decisions on a broad scale about what “good” even means. “Good” is a set of rules determined by whatever tribe you happen to belong to. Thus, within the tribe, all the “good” people will always look exactly the same. They are all following the same rules. They are all obeying the same commandments. They are all dressing in the same manner. They are all getting married around the same age, and to the correct kind of people. They are all having the correct number of children, and they are all raising those children by the same basic rules. They are all keeping their houses cleaned to the same basic standard. They are all following the same social etiquette, and giving the same percentage of their money to charity, and they are all in agreement of what a breach of “goodness” looks like.
Goodness, in other words, is always socially uniform.
But freedom, Glennon pointed out, will look different for every person.
Your idea of goodness and my idea goodness probably look exactly the same. (Nice, polite, responsible, agreeable, generous.) But my idea of freedom might look nothing like your idea of freedom. What looks like liberation to you might feel like a prison to me. What looks like total freedom to me, might look boring and weird to you.
To be seen as “good” requires that you follow the rules of your particular tribe. But to experience freedom requires that you follow the call of your own spirit.
Goodness is obedience; Freedom is self-trust.
Goodness is a bit easier (just follow the rules) but I’m not sure it leads to happiness and creativity.
Freedom is harder (sometimes you go against culture and tribe), but I have a feeling it leads to…EVERYTHING.
What if you knew that you could be free, and that your own basic human decency would remain intact?
What if you trusted yourself enough to know that you are not a sociopath, and that your compassion and empathy are innately woven within you, and that you will make no decisions that violate compassion and empathy — even as you stubbornly choose to be free?
What if you believed that your freedom might not only liberate you, but also could make others feel more free?
What if – at every big decision point in life — you did not ask, “What do the rules say that a good person would do in this situation?”, but instead asked, “What is my own truth?”
What if you dared to follow your own truth?
What if you believed the Buddha, when he said, “Enlightenment will always taste like freedom”?
What if you refused to make ANY decisions about your life that did not taste like freedom?
What if you stopped believing that martyrdom is the path to enlightenment?
What if the only thing you needed, in order to be free, was to believe in your own truth, and to trust yourself?
What if freedom healed you?
What you discovered that — for your — freedom IS goodness, because only when you are truly free can you even feel your own heart…or the hearts of others?
I don’t have any solid answers about this yet, but I’m fascinated by the question. This is the thought I am dancing with most closely in my mind right now.
I can’t stop thinking about this idea, and I’m genuinely curious to hear your feelings about it…
Be honest — what do you think?
LG (Liz Gilbert)
My house sold at auction on Thursday! Finally I’m free and feeling the pull to travel to what has always felt like my spiritual home, Southern France. My 18 year old son is travelling with me to Paris and then taking his own path and calling to Spain (also a place I’m pulled to..)
It’s taken a lot of work for me to get to this point and I can’t help feel this journey will be life changing… I’m nervous and excited.
(Just need to find a loving carer for my little fur baby).
Love & baby steps,
“You will know the call of your destiny because it will sound insane”… Do It! Life is not about playing it safe.
This is hilarious by Liz Gilbert! I can relate to this.
By Liz Gilbert
Dear Ones –
I recieved news last week that my magnificent old Balinese medicine man, Ketut Liyer, has passed away.
I wanted to take my time before I spoke about him in public, so I could just FEEL him in my heart for a while.
He was a healer, a mystic, a time-traveler, a world-bender, a mind-shaper, a compassion-expert, a flirt, a comedian, a bozo, a hustler, a magician, a trickster, and a fully ascended spiritual master. On the morning after he died, an earthquake rocked across Bali, as the earth said farewell to one of its greatest masterpieces. He will not be coming back to this world. His work is done.
As for his work on me, it was perfection. When I met him in 2002, I was a fucking wreck of a woman — shamed, skinny, terrified, lost, and trapped inside a mind that felt like a caged and starving wolf. He pretended to read my palm, but that wasn’t even the point (it never was with Ketut; many of you had palm readings from Ketut over the years, and you know he was kind of full of bullshit, right? Guy was so blind, he couldn’t even SEE your hand, much less read its detailed lines.) No, he looked into my spirit, and he was like, “I’m taking this one.”
He told me that I was destined to come back to Bali someday, to live with him for a few months, and to that he would teach me healing arts, and I would teach him English. (Again: total bullshit. I am just as incapable of learning Balinese healing arts as Ketut was of learning English, but he said what he needed to say, to get me back there, where I needed to be, to meet my destiny.)
Then I spent the next two years transforming my life because of ONE SENTENCE that an old turtle of a man said to me on his porch one night. He told me to come back; I came back. And he had no idea who I was (in fact, he NEVER had any idea who I was, no matter how many times I cam back) but it doesn’t matter. The shit worked. Everthing changed because he spoke, and I responded.
Listen to me now.
I’m passing this along not only from me, but from Ketut, who is burning inside me right now, like the fierce lantern he always was.
When you are searching for a path in your life, and you see no options, and you just want to die, and nothing make sense, and you want to stab everyone at the office party, and somebody throws a crazy fucking idea in your face that makes even LESS sense than the abundant lack of sense your life already makes? DO IT. You have to do it.
You will know the call of your destiny, because it will sound insane.
The call will not make sense. The call will not fit into what your culture and your history suggest that you are supposed to do. The call will cost you money and time. And relationships. The call will not please your tribe. The call will ask you to do something you have no training in, no talent for, no safety net about. The call will want to make you wet your pants in fear. The call will put all order into danger and disarray. The call will make you say, “Why the hell did I leave my marriage, and quit my job, and sell all my belongings, and get on a plane, and move to Indonesia, just because a possibly mentally unstable medicine man who doesn’t even know my name told me to do that two years ago, while he was fake-reading my palm?” The call will demand stupid amounts of courage — and by that, I mean to say that the call will require the kind of courage that literally makes you look and feel stupid.
That’s your LIFE calling.
We are not messing around here anymore. We do not have time for anything less. What do you seriously think we came here to do, you guys? Be good? Be nice? Be responsible? Not make waves? Obey the patterns and the structures? Concentrate on getting exactly the right fixed-rate mortgage? Make good contacts? Keep things filed away neatly, and focus on flow-charts? Find a cleaner for your bathroom tub that scours without scratching? Collect Delta Sky Miles?
Or did you come here walk across the miles of sky that constitute the dangerous, weird, ridiculous, messy, ecstatic, magnificent, mystical journey that is the once-in-an-eternity experiment of the universe that is called YOUR LIFE?
Ketut showed me how to start sky-walking, and I have never looked back.
You live that way, and I promise you this — when you die, the earth will shake, too.
I bow to the master.
ps — this sign I’m holding? It was hanging outside his house the first time I went there. Years later — after EAT PRAY LOVE, and the movie, and after Ketut became a rock star who tourists would come see by the bus-load — I went to visit him (he didn’t recognize me) and I saw the sign sitting in a pile of trash, about to be burned in a bonfire. I asked him if I could have it. He said no. But he told me I could BUY it. HA! So I gave him 50 bucks for it. I will miss you, old man. I will miss you.
Be thankful to those who mistreated you, for they have showed you how not to live your life.
Be thankful to those who betrayed you. It is because of them that you have learned the power that comes from the act of forgiveness.
Be thankful to those who refused to help you in times of need. It is because of them you have learned how to do it all by yourself.
Be thankful for the difficult times, for they have showed you how strong you can be.
Be thankful for those who labeled, judged and criticized you harshly. It is because of them you have learned that your value and self-worth come from yourself and not from others.
Be thankful to those who gave you no love. It is because of them that you have learned to look for love and approval within yourself.
Be thankful for the many limits that were imposed on you. It is because of them you have learned to break free from all the past conditioning and create your own reality and your own rules.
Be thankful for you past mistakes and failures. It is because of them that you have learned how not to do things. It is because of them that you have learned what works and what doesn’t.
Be thankful for both the good and bad experiences life has sent your way. It is because of these experiences that you have learned some of life’s most valuable lessons…”
~ Luminita D. Saviuc