Cheap Freedom or True Freedom?

photo by Eder Perez

photo by Eder Perez

By: Abbie Kilgore

When I was younger, I remember accidentally knocking down a clock that hung by the stairs of my friend’s house. The fall created a huge commotion and I was the only one to blame because, simply, I was the reason the clock laid on the floor in pieces. I tried to wiggle my way out of the fault, but there was nowhere to hide. I so badly wanted to wipe my hands clean of the mistake, but I couldn’t. We don’t enjoy taking responsibility for our mistakes. It is heavy and uncomfortable to admit to fault.  But when we don’t take responsibility for our actions, how do we learn from our mistakes? 

In 2013, an intoxicated, 16-year-old, Ethan Couch got behind the wheel of his pick-up. His blood alcohol level was at .24 - three times the legal limit in Texas where Couch is from. Speeding thirty miles over the speed limit, Couch plowed into four people on the side of the road who were stopped to fix a flat tire. These four people did not survive. Facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Couch’s defense attorney came up with a crafty escape: affluenza. Simply put, this argued that Couch never faced the consequences for his actions before, and that led to his recklessness, which ultimately led to the death of four people.  Couch was sentenced to probation and rehab – a significantly reduced sentence. 

In a CNN report, Eric Boyles (who lost his wife and daughter in this accident) stated that he simply wanted an apology from Couch. He only wanted to hear, “I’m sorry.” But Couch said nothing. 

This past December, Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after a video surfaced showing Ethan violating his probation at a party where alcohol was served. This has rekindled all of the outrage from the lack of punishment Couch faced. When we are never faced with the consequences for our actions, our character goes sadly underdeveloped. Those mistakes are spoiled on cheap freedom. But when we are faced with our shortcomings, and choose not to turn a blind eye to them, we can learn from them. 

Couch and his mother now face heavier criminal charges than ever. When you attempt to escape from responsibilities, you create a cheap, false freedom for yourself. This contaminated version of the true freedom we seek lures us in with promises of ease and instant gratification. Escaping to Mexico was an attempt to grab the cheap freedom available to the Couch’s. But true freedom is found in the slow process of facing guilt, finding redemption, and problem solving. True freedom comes from taking responsibility for our actions, not an avoidance of that responsibility. Cheap freedom only wastes. True freedom brings wisdom. Cheap freedom cheats. True freedom brings growth. Cheap freedom doesn’t last. True freedom does.