The title of this song by Sting has been roaming around in my mind since early this morning. (And now I can’t get the background singers singing “free, free, set them free” out of my head either!)
What does this statement really mean?
It could mean a lot of different things, I realized. Here are my insights as to how we can understand the meaning of this statement as it relates to dating and marriage, parenting, and even ourselves. (I am sure you have some ideas too and I would love to hear them in the comments below.)
Dating and Marriage
What does it mean to love someone and set them free when it comes to dating and marriage?
Perhaps loving someone and setting them free means that if you truly care and respect the person you are dating, and you realize that you do not have those same feelings toward them, then the respectful thing to do would be to let them go, or break up with them. Or perhaps it means being honest with them about where you are at in the relationship, and you ‘set them free’ to decide what they want to do.
Another thought I had was my memory of my conversation with my mother after having (finally!) broken up with a young man I was in an unhealthy relationship when I was a teenager. After I had chosen to end the relationship, I shared the news with my mother. We were both looking in the mirror at the time, getting ourselves ready for our day and I will never forget her response to my news. She turned to me and said: “Jenny, I feel like you have wings and he was preventing you from flying.”
(I remember feeling so validated and wondered where this guidance was while I was in the relationship? But my insights and answers to that question are for another article!)
So ‘setting someone free’ can mean to let go of trying to control them or the relationship; or allowing that person to just be and love them for who they are.
It can also mean that we allow not just for the other to be who they are, but to also respect and encourage that person’s other likes, hobbies, profession, and other relationships, including other friendships, and family relationships.
When it comes to parenting, and especially to parenting teenagers, the goal, in my opinion is to allow for the discovery of the many qualities and gifts inherent in the child and to provide our children with the tools to channel those qualities in a way that will help them to be successful in their own lives. (I like to call this style of parenting – parenting from the inside-out.)
Setting our children free can mean that we allow and accept our children for who they are, celebrate their unique qualities and strengths; and let go of judgment and trying to control them or make them into someone that we would like to them to be.
Setting our children free can also mean that we allow for them to grow up, make their own choices, and teach them the tools to become responsible, independent adults, capable of standing on their own two feet.
When it comes to truly loving ourselves, this statement can be applied to us, as well.
Really loving ourselves means to fully accept who we are, with all of our incredible qualities, and our faults and/or challenges. Setting ourselves free means to allow ourselves the permission to be gentle with ourselves, to listen to our own inner voice, to take the time to ‘date’ ourselves and discover our own unique likes and dislikes, thoughts, feelings and opinions and to fill our own personal ‘treasure box’ with the things that are unique and special to us.
Setting ourselves free can mean that we walk out into the world standing tall and proud, allowing ourselves to be who we are, and freeing ourselves to shine our light onto the world without fear and without hesitation.
This is what loving someone (and ourselves) and setting them free means to me. What does it mean to you?
Learn more about how to express yourself (and your love) with confidence in your relationships (and get the same love back), here.