Responsible Freedom and Self-governance | GR8 Relationships

Responsible Freedom and Self-governance

Responsible freedom is what people with great values will pursue. You can see the direct relationship between responsible freedom and self-governance in the Freedom V tool. That tool helps explain freedom, self-governance, rules or boundaries, and consequences in a rather simple graphic. It is rather easy to explain and draw. You do not need the table to the right of the graphic unless you want to provide some additional ways to apply the tool.

The two most important elements are the 1) V shape and the 2) arrow in the middle. So, let’s go through the graphic.

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. The lines on the right and left are boundaries that define the limits of acceptable behavior. These boundaries are best when they are clear and bright. Nothing is left to speculation or conjecture. And, they need to be easily known and advertised if possible.

Second, the space inside the V represents the area of Responsible Freedom. That is where you use your freedom correctly or within the accepted norms of the structure that demands behavior. The amount of freedom increases as you move up the V shape. The structure can be either malevolent or benign, but there will still be a V shape. Even in the most disgusting dictatorships or gangs, there are those who gain more freedom by not crossing the boundaries set by the structure.

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 or structures. Even evil organizations have their boundaries. Hopefully, the consequences are clearly stated at the same time that the boundaries are set.

Finally, the arrow in the middle represents self-governance. The color on the arrow represents the degree of self-governance being demonstrated. At the bottom, it is lacking. The yellow and green represent the increase in self-governance as you move from bottom to top. And, the colors directly correlate with the narrow or expansive freedom allowed.

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

In the graph above, the table to the right provides additional ways to look at the Freedom V. For example, you can divide self-governance into 3 distinct levels that can overlap.

  • Self-absorbed - From the bottom in the red into the yellow area. That would be 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 would be someone that is exhibiting an adequate level of self-governance. This can be measured in general, or specific for individual work or life situations. 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 that tends to work to the benefit of others. That is the Serve Stage, where people operate based on principles and know how to broadly apply those principles to various life situations.

The Freedom V will work with any structure and is especially good for families, and, of course, organizations with great values.


A person with self-governance considers others and the impact their actions have on others. They will 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 you are a wise parent, desiring to act like God does with you. You would create tight boundaries for them, because they do not have knowledge or experience with the way things work in the world. You would 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 would provide them enough freedom to see if they can learn how to stay inside the boundaries.

When the baby has grown to be a toddler, you will still have relatively tight boundaries. They will be learning how to stay within the boundaries for the freedom that you give them and experiencing the consequences when they don’t. The rules and expectations provided to them are an invitation to live wisely, not a way to make sure that they know you are the one in charge. You would invite them to live by rules, because it would help them escape the consequences. If you saw them moving toward a boundary, you would warn them, but allow them to choose, if the consequences weren’t too severe.

When a child grows older, the boundaries are expanded as they show the ability to make right choices. Since you have taught them how to recognize boundaries for themselves, they are hopefully making good choices while they are away from us at school, with friends, or by themselves. The more they show self-governance, you provide greater freedom. When the boundaries are crossed, freedom is reduced 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 did not happen, and it was determined to be willful disobedience, you would move them down the freedom V until they demonstrated they would be home at the designated time.

The end goal is to have the child set their own boundaries that are always inside the clear boundaries that God has created.

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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