Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

The Dizziness of Freedom (Why you think about jumping when peering off a tall balcony)

Have you ever stood at the railing of a tall balcony or at the edge of a high cliff and the thought pops into your mind, “Jump!” Or, even worse, have you felt the urge to push someone else off?

The French call this urge “L’appel du vide “ which is roughly translated, “the call of the void.” However, this thought doesn’t mean you’re suicidal. It means you’re alive. It also reveals something deeper about who we are as humans.

We are free to make choices and our choices have consequences.


Each morning you wake up and go about your life. Your choices determine the direction and momentum of your story. You are slowly steering your life into the future.

This reality is never more evident than when you are looking over the ledge of a balcony. There is a clear possibility. You can make a choice that will radically alter your life forever. The power of your choice is overwhelming. Kierkegaard called this “the dizziness of freedom.”

The power of our choice is disorienting. Our freedom is frightening.

This extends beyond the balcony.

The choices you make today will impact your life as radically as the choice on the balcony. The only difference is you won’t see the results immediately.

This frightens us. It’s scary to realize the impact of each decision on our lives. While we can back away from the ledge or step off the balcony, we can’t step away from life. Passivity also has consequences.

Whether you sleep until noon or wake early to invest in your gifts, it is your choice.
Whether you reconcile a relationship or “vent your feelings” to someone else, it is your choice.
Whether you accept constructive criticism or deny feedback, it is your choice.
Whether you seek truth or live in a lie, it is your choice.

When you stop to think about it, the weight is overwhelming. That’s why we try to convince ourselves we are powerless.

Fatalism—the belief that life is inevitable and predetermined—is an attractive alternative to the dizziness of freedom.

It is easier to blame others than take responsibility for our choices.
It is easier to bemoan our circumstances than face reality.
It is easier to believe nothing will change than work to create it.
It is easier to back away from our dreams than fight for a better future.

We convince ourselves we are powerless because we don’t want the responsibility of our reality. Too often, we choose to pull the covers over our heads and wish it away. But wishing won’t change the world.

Your words,
Your choices,
Your actions,
Your investments,
Your sacrifices change the world.

It’s time to take our decisions seriously. No more slowly throwing ourselves off the balcony. Embrace the power of your choices and make good ones. Live life today the way you want your life to look in the future.

And one more encouragement for those times when the dizziness of freedom is overwhelming: your choices are powerful, but they are not the most powerful force in the universe.

Because God is the source of my freedom, I can make decisions in the context of his overall plan for my life. When I make a bad decision, I can receive forgiveness. When I don’t know what to choose, I do the best I can, trusting him to tie the loose ends together.

I find great comfort in the mysterious intersection of my freedom and God’s plan. It doesn’t make me lazy, it makes me bold. I can run towards the future knowing it lies in God’s hands. I am not alone on the balcony and that is the greatest comfort of all.

Open Letter Cover 2

If you liked this post, then consider joining the community here at JoshIrby[dot]com. Just for joining, I will give you my recent visual manifesto, An Open Letter for You from the Rest of the World, for FREE.

Plus, you will receive regular blog updates and exclusive newsletter content.

"I love Josh's writing. Big things to come from him." —Jeff Goins

About Josh