Freedom isn’t free. There’s that pesky “R” word.

Freedom. Our prized possession.

It isn’t free. We celebrate those who protect our country on Armed Services Day, who fought for it on Veteran’s Day, and who died for it on Memorial Day. Sacrifices were made. They’re still being made. We are grateful for their commitment to our freedom.

There’s another way our freedom is not free. Freedom comes with that “R” word.

Like every other kid, I sought liberty as I grew up. My run for independence started early, beginning in my toddler years. I didn’t need anyone telling me what to do. I was my own boss. I didn’t need any adult supervision. But that’s a story for another day.

I wanted to hold the fork for myself. Wash my own hair. Bike around the neighborhood without supervision. Stay at home by myself. Open my own savings account. Get a puppy (and, of course, “I can take care of it”). Drive by myself. Have my own credit card. Move out. Buy my own car. Buy my own house

All these freedoms came with responsibility. I heard it over and over from my parents. At the time, it was in one ear and out the other. I mean, what could they know. They were so old. Looking back, I see what they meant far more clearly.

Having the freedom to stay at home alone came with the responsibility not to set the house on fire. Biking blocks away required avoiding unsafe bike maneuvers (e.g., jumping ditches) and not wandering off. That driver’s license meant driving safely (for my life and others). And, not locking my keys in the car (oops!). Or, not running out of gas. Or, leaving it unlocked. Buying a car meant paying the monthly bill and buying insurance (what a racket! Don’t get me started). Moving out meant cooking, laundry, cleaning toilets, and vacuuming. Buying the house meant paying the mortgage, getting insurance, doing chores (ugh!) and maintenance (double ugh!!).

Freedom is not free. There is a cost others paid for us to have it.

Freedom is not free. There is a responsibility we must embrace to keep it. And, there’s that “R” word.

As citizens, we have a responsibility to ourselves, each other, and the next generation to preserve our freedom. We have a responsibility to participate and make a difference.

We have a responsibility to be informed. Granted, this is so much more difficult these days. For lots of reasons. So we have to work harder at it. But I believe “group think,” where we just repeat what we’ve been told instead of learning and forming our own thoughts, is ultimately destructive.

We have a responsibility to express our views. And, to respect other people’s opinions. I believe we are at our best when our different views have a voice and get heard. Today, our discourse is off-track. Everything is political. Religiously political. All sides are intolerant of other views. Instead of learning from each other, we seem more interested in shaming them or forcing conformance. Ideas are only powerful when they are believed, never when they are compelled. I realize I need to check myself on this.

We have a responsibility to vote. My view is that every citizen should vote their conscience. Only vote once. But vote. Only vote while you are alive. But vote. If you have different opinions than me, that’s okay. But vote.

We have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters. Help our neighbor. Show that American generosity. Let the selfless sacrifice of those who’ve gone before us mean something. I have more work to do more myself.

So, as I celebrate my freedom today, I’m also thinking about my responsibilities. The sacrifice of so many is not in vain. I am grateful for their service and commit to doing my part to be worthy of the freedom they fought for.

Author: Kevin D. Phillips is a consultant, executive coach, and leadership developer helping clients increase profitability, improve customer loyalty, and navigate challenges of rapid growth. As Build Them Up® founder, he is on a mission to help leaders improve organizational results by investing in the people who create them. Connect at or on social media at

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