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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I’m a big believer in liberty. I believe that liberty is one of our country’s founding principles. The historical degree of liberty we’ve enjoyed is one of the things that makes our country unique and that has led to our economic livelihood and success. I also see our liberties being slowly (some would say quickly) eroded away by undue government intrusions into way too many areas of our lives.

Now, don’t worry, I’m not turning my blog into a political platform. The reason I bring this topic up is that, as with my last post, liberty and license relate directly to a marriage principle I also believe in strongly.

The “Problem” with Liberty

There is a downside to liberty, which is that some confuse liberty with license. Those who do so will tend to abuse their liberty by acting without appropriate restraint, self-control or consideration of others.

Historian and philosopher Will Durant put it this way, “When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.”

What happens when liberty becomes license is that we over-react by introducing often severe restrictions on liberty in the name of fairness. We try to control everyone because of the stupidity of a few. (You can read my last post if you want to see what I think about the appropriateness of fairness as a yardstick for marriage.)

Liberty and License in Marriage

Marriage is to be a place of tremendous liberty but not a place of license.

By liberty I mean that we should not try to force our spouses to conform to our notion of what a husband or wife should be, even if it is biblically based. Don’t approach your marriage with the notion that you can control or change him or her to be what you want. It doesn’t work and will lead to disappointment and frustration all around.

At the same time, neither of you should view the liberty your spouse grants you to “be who you are” as license to behave in any manner you wish, to do whatever you want, or to act without regard to your spouse’s interests or desires.

If you are the husband who sees himself as having the authority to lead his wife and family, taking that kind of license is when liberty edges toward dictatorship, as Durant said. Instead, use the liberty of your authority to love and serve your wife, to ensure that she feels cared for and protected.

A wife who takes license with her liberty, who acts without regard to her husband’s needs and desires, will be seen by her husband as disrespectful, untrusting and ungrateful, and ultimately it will leave him feeling unloved. Instead, use your liberty to act with generosity toward your husband, showing him the respect he desires, the sexual attention he craves and the trust and admiration that makes him feel loved.

When you use the liberty in your marriage to love and serve one another it creates an atmosphere where freedom thrives, where trust grows and where the desire to control and constrain each other dies away.

- - - - Further Reading - - - -

Over at The Generous Husband, Paul Byerly recently wrote about a  national marriage study that showed how important generosity is to sustaining a marriage for the long term.  I strongly recommend you check it out here


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