If we lack freedom or willpower, what can we do?

When we try to do something worthwhile, if external situations hamper us, we may lament our lack of freedom. Or if internal conditionings hamper us, we may lament our lack of willpower. Amid both such situations, instead of lamenting, we can focus on what we still have: our free will. 

Let’s better understand three relevant terms: free will, freedom and willpower. Free will refers to our innate faculty of desiring — that’s something we never lose. Freedom refers to the external facility to act as per our desire. Willpower refers to the inner strength to commit to a particular desire amid opposing conditionings or conditions. 

Consider a prisoner convicted for a crime. Their freedom is restricted by the prison walls. Still, if they use their free will properly and behave responsibly, they will eventually regain their freedom, maybe even get their prescribed sentence curtailed. 

Consider a person addicted to alcohol. Their willpower has become compromised by the strong conditionings created by their repeated drinking; those conditionings may give rise to urges that seem irresistible. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (16.12) indicates that such people are shackled by their desires. Nonetheless, they can still use their free will properly to strive for sobriety, at least during those phases when their urges aren’t overpowering. By such judicious use of free will, they can slowly but steadily increase their willpower. 

Additionally, no matter what restricts us, we can always use our free will to connect devotionally with the all-pure Lord in our heart. By that connection, we will become divinely guided (10.10). There, we can expertly navigate both our conditions and conditionings to maximize both our willpower and our freedom. 

One-sentence summary:

Don’t lament the freedom or the willpower we lack; use the free will we have as much as we can and gradually both our willpower and our freedom will increase. 

Think it over:

  • Explain the difference between freedom, willpower, and free will.
  • If our freedom or willpower are reduced, what can we do?
  • Whenever we are restricted, what can we do?


16.12: Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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  1. Wow this piece came just when I needed it most! Thank you and Hare Krishna!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • Thanks for your appreciation, happy to be of service.

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  2. Heartily gratitude for sharing this Pearl of wisdom.
    Lord through your sharing

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    • Yes, the Lord is engaging us all in sharing and relishing his message

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  3. I agree with Denny. These articles make my day too.

    ys, jad.

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  4. Thank you for the article! Is the shloka image intentionally 11.12?

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