Freedom to err

Real freedom allows you to make decisions irrespective of the outcome

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi needs no introduction. Fondly called Bapu, Gandhi was an epitome of values. What sets him apart is that he remained truthful to his values and practised what he preached.

My interpretation of the above quotation

Mahatma Gandhi played perhaps the most important role in India’s struggle for freedom from the British Rule. For him, freedom—political and philosophical—was a birthright, and the right to choose was implicit in it. He knew that freedom from British rule may lead to many other problems for Indians but for him, freedom was the highest value and was worth much more than anything else.

In the above quote, Gandhi is referring to individual freedom, which is often called “liberty”. Gandhi’s definition of freedom was all-encompassing. According to him, authentic freedom is about being able to choose, even if your choice ends up being the wrong one. If you have the freedom to choose, but you can’t make mistakes, then it is not freedom at all—it’s only a disguised form of imposition.

Mistakes should not be a hindrance to choice because unless we choose, we wouldn’t know if it is a mistake. If we’re given the freedom to choose with the condition that our choices must always be right, then we will always want to avoid making any choice. Because, most often we don’t know whether a choice is right or not until after we have made it.

So, genuine freedom means having a choice of alternatives available to us, and we select one, without any restrictions imposed on us. Therefore, when Gandhi is saying that freedom is not worth having without the freedom to commit mistakes, he is crusading for complete freedom.

Last year, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, just before he became the 44th president of America, Barack Obama said, “In formulating his strategy to achieve freedom, Gandhi had a choice, and he chose courage over fear.” Gandhi didn’t know then whether his choice was right or wrong. But he did know that unless he allowed himself to make mistakes, he wouldn’t ever be really free.

Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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