Why Freedom and Licentiousness Are Two Very Different Things

Freedom is a right that benefits the individual and society. Licentiousness is an excess that causes harm to oneself and others. Discover the differences between the two concepts here.
Why Freedom and Licentiousness Are Two Very Different Things
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 15 September, 2022

Freedom is a fundamental right and an inherent condition for many human beings. Battles have been fought in its name, entire nations have moved, and societies have been transformed. We’re all born free and must remain so throughout our lives. However, we must not confuse freedom with licentiousness; if we do, we can harm others and ourselves.

Perhaps when you think of licentiousness, images of hedonism, sexual promiscuity, or substance abuse all come to mind. However, it’s not a question of concrete actions, but of the motives behind them. In fact, what in one society is considered freedom is often considered licentiousness in another (for example, think about homosexuality or a woman’s right to dress as she likes).

Thus, it may be difficult to differentiate between these two concepts, but it’s very necessary to do so. Depending on what we embrace, we can live a full and harmonious life or a painful one that’s full of excesses and far from balance.

Freedom and licentiousness: Are they similar concepts?

At first glance, it may seem that freedom and licentiousness are the same concepts with a difference in degree. That is, an excess of the former becomes the latter.

However, their differences go beyond that and are not only quantitative, but also qualitative. However, before listing them, let’s define these two concepts.

Freedom is understood as the right of human beings to self-determination and to act of their own free will without external pressure or coercion. Thus, each person can choose how to think, how to speak, and how to act without being conditioned. However, this must be done responsibly and in accordance with social and moral norms.

In other words, in a certain sense, true freedom is a utopia. None of us is completely free insofar as we are subject to laws and ethical mandates, and we must respect the freedoms of others.

For its part, licentiousness is an excessive and misunderstood use of individual freedom. In this case, thoughts, words, and actions don’t correspond with the natural limitations of which we speak and therefore become abusive and harmful to oneself or to others. There’s no responsibility and no respect. There are no limits.

Freedom of speech
Freedom of expression, for example, is understood as a fundamental part of the rights that human beings have.

Like this article? You may also like to read: To Be Alone is the Price You Pay for Freedom

The main differences between freedom and licentiousness

Based on their definitions, we can already get an idea of the differences between these two concepts. However, we’ll take a look at them schematically below for clarity.

Freedom is a right; licentiousness is an infringement of rights

This is one of the major differences between freedom and licentiousness. The former is a basic right that all human beings should enjoy. On the contrary, the latter is a violation of rights.

Licentiousness can endanger the right to life (for example, when we drive under the influence of alcohol); the right to sexual freedom (in cases of non-consensual sex), or the right to health (when consuming drugs or assaulting others).

In the name of this misunderstood “freedom,” we can cause physical, emotional, and moral damage and violate important human rights. Licentiousness is associated with a lack of ethics and empathy, crime, abuse, and disrespect.

The limits or lack thereof

Freedom is always bounded by a set of rules. These may be legal (laws), social (by culture), or moral (governed by ethics). In any case, there are limits to one’s desires, and not everything is valid in order to achieve our objectives or to do our will.

In the case of licentiousness, on the other hand, no boundaries are contemplated. All lines are crossed, and only thoughtless desire and selfish impulse are attended to.

Responsibility versus irresponsibility

Freedom is the capacity for self-determination, but it always implies an exercise of responsibility. The free person can choose but is still responsible for her or his actions and their consequences. The person is always aware of how he or she may impact his or her own life and the lives of others with his or her actions.

On the other hand, a licentious person disregards these matters. He or she doesn’t foresee the consequences and is driven by a desire for immediate pleasure.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: Learn what Albert Camus Had to Say about the Meaning of Life

Benefit versus harm

Ultimately, the main difference between freedom and licentiousness lies in the fact that one is beneficial to the individual and society, and the other can be very detrimental to them both. Freedom improves and facilitates life in society, as it implies respect and coexistence; licentiousness, on the other hand, can lead to crime, transgression, and abuse.

Stealing is licentiousness, not freedom
Theft and robbery are expressions of debauchery, when someone decides to cause harm to another.

Learning to differentiate between freedom and licentiousness

As these are terms related to socialization, adults have the responsibility to teach children the differences between these two concepts. An education in values and emotional intelligence from childhood can pave the way, but adolescence is a key time to truly comprehend this knowledge.

In this time of rebellion, young people tend to move in search of quite gratification while acting on impulse and defying authority. If they don’t receive adequate accompaniment in their teenage years, they’re capable of crossing the line between the two terms and making many inappropriate decisions.

In reality, exercising freedom with awareness and responsibility is a job that we have to polish throughout our lives.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.