Freedom and Self-governance | GR8 Relationships

Freedom and Self-governance

Responsible freedom is what people with great values pursue. There is a direct relationship between responsible freedom and self-governance.

Our Freedom V tool helps explain freedom, self-governance, rules or boundaries, and consequences in one simple graphic. It is easy to explain and draw, plus, if you want to stay with the basics, you don't need the table to the right of the graphic.

The two most important elements are the 1) V shape and the 2) arrow in the middle. 

Responsible Freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Understanding the Graphic

First, the V shape lines on the right and left represent boundaries or the limits of acceptable behavior. It is essential to create clear boundaries that are easy to understand. And, please clearly communicate the boundaries.

Second, the space inside the V is the area of Responsible Freedom. In this area, you operate freely. Notice how the amount of freedom increases as you move up the V shape.​

This V structure shows up in both destructive or constructive organizations. Even in the most disgusting dictatorships or gangs, some people gain more freedom by following the rules - however perverse they are. Any member of the gang that stays within the "responsible freedom" range is likely obeying the gang's rules.

Third, outside the V are consequences for crossing the boundaries. Once you cross the boundary, you move into the area of Irresponsible Freedom. Again, this is applicable to both good and bad value organizations. It is best to state the consequences at the same time the boundaries are set.

Finally, the arrow in the middle represents self-governance. The color on the arrow portrays the degree of self-governance. At the bottom, there is minimal self-governance. The yellow and green represent the increase in self-governance as you move from bottom to top. Finally, the colors directly correlate with the narrow or expanded responsible freedom.

Levels of the Freedom V

So, when you abide by the rules of the structure, stay inside the boundaries, greater responsible freedom is available. In other words, the more you demonstrate self-governance, the more responsible freedom is available. 

In the graph above, the table to the right provides additional ways to look at the Freedom V. We see self-governance in 3 distinct levels that overlap.

  • Self-absorbed - From the bottom in the red into the yellow area. This is someone that is either inexperienced, without knowledge about a topic, or simply ignores what is right. That is the Learning Stage. In that stage, people need specific rules, because there are tighter controls. That does not mean that you ignore the "why" for the rules.
  • Self-controlled - From the middle yellow area into the green. That is someone who exhibits an adequate level of self-governance. They are in the Apply Stage where they mostly need guidelines, since they understand the rules.
  • Selfless or Self-denial - The top area of self-governance works to the benefit of others. That is the Serve Stage, where people operate on principles and know how to broadly apply those principles to various life situations.

Again, the Freedom V works with any structure and is especially good for families, and, of course, organizations.


A person with self-governance considers others and the impact their actions have on others. They stay within the V as long as the freedom inside the V is about good and Godly values.

Suppose you are responsible for a baby and, as a wise parent, desire to act like God does with you. You create tight boundaries for them, because they do not have knowledge or experience with the way things work in the world. You put them in controlled environments like a crib or play pen, watch and help them to reduce significant harm to them. At the same time, you provide them enough freedom to see if they can learn how to stay inside the boundaries.

When the baby grows to the toddler age, you still have relatively tight boundaries. They are learning how to stay within the boundaries for the freedom that you allow. And, they experience the consequences when they don’t. The rules and expectations you provide to them are an invitation to live wisely. They are about making sure they know you are the one in charge. You invite them to live by rules, because it helps them escape the consequences. If you saw them approaching a boundary, you may warn them, but allow them to choose, if the consequences weren’t too severe.

When a child grows older, you expand the boundaries as they show the ability to make right choices. Since you have taught them how to recognize boundaries for themselves, they are hopefully make good choices while they are away from you at school, with friends, or by themselves. The more they show self-governance, the more they operate within responsible freedom. When the boundaries are crossed, you reduce freedom by moving them down the V.

You might say to an older child, “go where you want, be safe and be home by nightfall”. If that does not happen, and it was determined to be willful disobedience, you move them down the freedom V until they demonstrate they will come home at the designated time. 

The end goal is a child who sets their own boundaries that are inside the clear boundaries that God set for us.


If you remember, the definition of self-governance is “delaying immediate gratification for future benefit.” Another simple, very practical way to see self-governance is when you, rather than the authorities, set boundaries for yourself. Of course, those boundaries are within the overall boundaries that are set by God and His designated authority channels (Romans 13).

You love and value people when you commit to influence people to be self-governing. You cannot do it for them. As much as you might want to control, it is often best to allow people to cross the boundary and suffer the consequences, if not too severe for them or the organization. You can control the people you lead, but it is seldom the best action. Exercising personal freedom is an essential part of what it means to be human and learning how to be self-governing after experiencing consequences.

If you learn to pre-decide, then you become more self-governing and suffer less consequences.

So, let’s revisit how freedom works best. First, we have been set free for living a life of freedom, not bondage and obligation.

Galatians 5:1 (ESV) – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Remember the definition of freedom? “Acting without controlling or being controlled.” Can you misuse freedom, be irresponsible with your freedom? Absolutely! Of course, if you decide to use your freedom to do anything you want, most likely, your freedom will become limited. Why? Because, authorities have the freedom to move you down the Freedom V with monetary consequences like fines or physical consequences like jail. That is God’s wrath being exhibited through authority channels (Romans 13).

So, it is better to be self-governing and put your freedom underneath the higher value of LOVE. When you do that, you limit your own freedoms by pursuing the best for others.

Galatians 5:13 (ESV) – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

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