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  • Writer's pictureRobin Wright-Pierce

Finding freedom for freedom fighters: A path to personal and political freedom

Image of a racial justice protest during the height of 2020 racial uprising. There is a Black male standing in the center of the crowd holding a sign that says: Stop killing us! I can't breath.

Freedom fighters are drowning.


If you glimpse inside an activist and social service organization, you will encounter many individuals who work 12-hour days as a norm. You will encounter people who struggle to utilize their allotted vacation time because they believe that they cannot rest because injustice never rests.  You will encounter many others who hold their work with such fragility that they believe that if they take time off, initiatives within their organization will fall apart. You will find many others still, who are trapped in organizational cultures that fail to honor their time off, instead demanding immediate response to everything that arises.


I have met community organizers whose marriages ended because they were unable to integrate their personal and professional lives in ways that allowed them to both tend to their families and their work. I’ve met social workers who blur boundaries and overextend themselves to help the people they are serving even at the risk of depleting their own personal resources. Indeed, change agent communities are full of individuals who are losing themselves in their work. Individuals trained in a culture of work that reinforce notions that the only thing that matters is the mission of their particular cause.  


This phenomenon is pervasive in the movement field. It is a normative way of being that is not only hurting individual change agents, but is also wrecking havoc on social justice organizations, the movement ecosystem at large and ultimately derailing our impact.



Finding Freedom for freedom fighters.


We can, and we must, come to know freedom within even as we work to co-create a more just world.

More is possible.  It is possible to learn a different way of being with ourselves, with others, and in our work. We must do the work of finding freedom for freedom fighters. For me, this awareness that I could learn to experience greater personal freedom emerged gradually throughout my adult life. Eventually, my depression and constant burnout drove me to get help. I was drowning. The challenges of my work and working style collided with my childhood trauma in ways that kept me constantly teetering on the edge of despair.


My personal healing journey taught me that I can, and I must, come to know freedom internally even as I work to co-create a more just world.  I now understand that personal and political freedom fuel one another constantly in a reciprocal relationship of ebb and flow. As we glimpse freedom within, we unlock new possibilities for how we might live together as free people. Similarly, our pursuits of political freedom and justice in the world, inspire us to shed layers of internalized oppression and to go deeper into our own freedom and evolution. In fact, it demands it of us – and when we ignore this demand, we suffer. We suffer because through our resistance we remain locked in personal bondage in ways that contradicts the world we are working for.


At the end of the day, we must remember that as change agents we are not just called to be conduits of social change; we are called instead to be the light that guides the world toward freedom and justice. This means we must transform ourselves in order to transform the world around us. As we transform and start to be different in our work, in our movement, and in the world, we become better able to discern paths forward and to invite and hold others as they join us in the journey.  


At Transforming Change, we guide change agents, social justice organizations and movement groups through their own journeys of transformation in ways that optimizes their impact. We help freedom fighters find their freedom!



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