Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about free will — the ability to speak our mind, make a decision, or to choose a path — decisions we make to better our lives.

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, free will is defined as “a significant kind of control over one’s actions.” History shows that Western philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle had been contemplating this thousand of years ago. They too were trying to figure out,

Do we really have free will and to what degree and is it necessary for moral responsibility or human dignity?

I have always been a big believer in free will, but in the past few months I have seen the shadow side of it — a side I was not prepared to see — and the very side those same philosophers found themselves conflicted about millennia ago.

The choices we freely make sometimes hurt others. Many of us have experienced this deep within. It is apparent, too, that many of us have forgotten our role in freely choosing our behavior and the impact those choices can have on others.

During the summer of 2020, I was discussing this topic with a friend who stopped me during one of my points to say, “I’m sorry you’re so naive. Please remember as humans we have the choice to do what we want without explanation.” While technically correct, this doesn’t have my full agreement.

Of course, I understand that we have the right to make our own lawful choices without being judged, but should our actions not acknowledge their possible consequences? Do we excuse our behavior after making a choice, rather than thinking about the consequences first? Do we have an awareness of how our trauma and wounds cause us to act out and then use that to excuse our poor deliberate choices?

Call me naïve, but I was raised to think and behave differently.

Sometimes we have to take steps that are out of our control which may, unfortunately, alter another’s life. An example of this would be someone leaving a relationship that no longer serves them. It may work out very well for one party while leaving the significant other with a broken heart.

But a breakup scenario is not the free will I am highlighting. And I am sure many of you reading can understand the difference and see where this is going.

I am referencing those who consistently demonstrate dishonesty, cheating behaviors, physical or emotional abuse, and forms of manipulation, mindfully aware of the negative toll these actions take on others. The power of their free will is corrupted by their own broken hearts and souls. Some simply use their free will to accomplish their personal agendas.

With self-development being a focus in recent years, most of us are aware that lashing out at others is a tactic to boost only our own ego or display our self-righteousness. Perhaps it’s also a survival tool deep within our psyche. Thousands of resources including therapists and self helps books (both free and for a price) can help us face the demons of the past that misguide and corrupt our exercise of free will for the good of others. Instead, some are choosing the route of harm, hurt, participation in dangerous extremist groups, poor behaviors, and cruelty as a coping mechanism.

How do we know this? In a year where we are suffering a global health crisis, facing racial injustice in America, and fighting to protect our democratic norms, I still hear people saying, “Yea, but what about me and my needs?”

How can we put an end to our own selfish behavior? When we finally name our own brokenness, weakness, and emptiness and acknowledge left unchecked, these traumas can cause us to make choices that can create lasting wounds in others.

Whether it’s politics, the pandemic, a love relationship, friendship, or work, the way to change is to consider our neighbor. It is time we go back to the lessons we learned from Mr. Rogers and our other childhood heroes,

There’s a part of all of us that longs to know that even what’s weakest about us is still redeemable and can ultimately count for something good.”

This shift won’t happen overnight. We will not change the world with one thought, one Instagram post, one article, or by simply being kind once or twice but we can be part of a movement together.

By repeating this affirmation day after day, perhaps we will start to think about how our actions affect others. “My free-will choices will be for the greater good for myself and those around me — those who are close to me and those I am yet to meet but may cross my path.”

While this won’t solve wars today, it may slowly mend hearts and restabilize hope.

The way out of the dark times is respect, love, and selflessness. Nothing else will work.

Our 2021 (yes travel included!) depends on this big step we can all take together. Will you join me in being more aware of your choices in the coming months? I know it won’t be easy but it will be appreciated and never forgotten.

Grazie mille, amici!

Attraversiamo — Let’s cross over




Cassandra Santoro is the Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a dual citizen of Italy and the USA she shares the lessons she learned living between two cultures.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Remember Who You Are

How Trendy Stoicism Assimilates the Counterculture

Flow, enjoyment, and the meaning(s) of life.

The alienated doctor

History vs the World: On Creation, Mathematical Factors, Worldwide figures

How to Cultivate Embodied Consciousness with Dr. Lynda Klau

Embodied Consciousness - Dr. Lynda Klau

Reading of the week: A comparison of Pauline Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism.

On the (13 X 167249)th day, God created Stevie Wonder

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Cassandra Lena Santoro

Cassandra Lena Santoro

Cassandra Santoro is the Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a dual citizen of Italy and the USA she shares the lessons she learned living between two cultures.

More from Medium

I Wish I Was NEAR San Diego…

The rise and fall of Rishi Sunak

eulogy of a failed messiah

Why We Need to Think Longer-Term