independence day

While diving into a number two combo-plate of Wahoo’s fish tacos on Saturday afternoon with a visiting friend who is currently a graduate student at the University of Delaware, I also dove headlong into a topic that I’d never really broached before – at least not that I can recall.

She launched the conversation with a statement I can’t completely remember, but made the point that she is a very independent person.

I disagreed, “No you’re not,” then proceeded with several time-consuming bites of fish taco and black beans and rice (with that fabulous salsa and fresh lime).  She questioned my counter point with “What? Why do you say that?!”  I kept eating, partly because the food was extremely tasty, but mostly because I wasn’t sure how to answer.

At first, I had made my statement from a knee-jerk reaction without fully considering the source of my thoughts or the implications.  Then, as I chewed and considered, I recalled reading something recently in a book – a book I haven’t even really enjoyed reading – about how the right relationship with God and mankind should be the ultimate form of codependency, in all the right ways.

I still don’t know if I agree with that idea, but I was following some gut-level, fish-taco instinct with my friend that felt right.

I followed with, “Independence is a disease.  It corrupts the heart and relationships.”  I went back to eating.

My friend is bright and a great debater, and I often lose the energy to debate her, on whatever topic is at hand, before she does.  On this Saturday, though, I had been in constant conversation since 6 a.m., and I was on a roll.

The only problem was that I wasn’t sure where I was headed with this independence argument.  It just felt right.

I finally found a path, along with an open mind from my friend, and talked as fast as I could, between mouthfuls and bathroom breaks, and pulled off a fairly compelling argument.  She even agreed with me, mostly, before it was all over.

My point on the topic, now that I’ve been through it is this:  God started this whole thing, or at least the good parts, saying something like:  “It’s not good for man to be alone.”

This is true, and I think we all know it.  In light of that, independence seems like a good attempt at making the effort to defend ourselves from the vulnerability of needing others.  We’ve been scarred from the wounds caused by the risks taken in attempts to find the right forms of dependency, and the pain has taught us to run from it.

The result is a false justification and exaggeration of the noble virtues of independence for the sake of saving our butts from the risks again.  We’ve spent a lot of time trying to stand on our own, just to prove we can and that we don’t need anyone else.

Independence and the ideals it inspires make great fodder for speeches and self-aggrandizement, and I’m acknowledging that the affects of such ideals have some redeeming strength-of-character, don’t-tread-on-me kinds of qualities.

We might even be able to pull it off – the independent spirit.  The only problem is, I’m thinking, at some soul, purposeful-life level, we hate every minute of it.

I think nothing makes the heart expand to its ordained size faster than needing someone and being needed and being okay with all of that.  It’s freedom for the heart, cure for the disease of isolation and false security.

Now that I think of it, that same book – which is turning out to be helpful, apparently – mentioned something about how our worst weaknesses are exploited and our greatest failures occur when we’re separated from beneficial support systems.

In unity with other people, and in unity with God, mutual dependence makes life abundant.  We’re actually so dependent on so many things that we take for granted that we don’t even recognize them any more.  We’re perfectly willing to be dependent on air, food, general health, comforts galore, as long as it doesn’t require a human face.

As we approach Independence Day for this country, I’m not sure my argument applies to nations, but maybe it does.  It’s worth some more thought, I guess, but in light of my concern for my friend’s well-being and direction in life, I’m not very concerned about national consequences.

Nations are made of individuals.  I’ll try to focus on simple conversations with a few of them.  And maybe I’ll try to focus on how much I need those people.

In fact, I’m fairly certain I need you, Dear Reader.  I’m needy.  There you have it.

Since we’re all about vulnerability at this moment, and we’re not close enough to share a campfire and a kumbaya, maybe you could just leave a comment and become a little more dependent for a moment just to keep me from thinking I’m out here all alone.

17 thoughts on “independence day”

  1. Good morning! Need to get myself ready for work. I’m here and you are not alone. Always enjoy your writing-gives me something to chew on.

  2. Speaking how you feel-I love it! This blog touches my heart deeply as a divorced person who lives alone. It is entirely too easy to become detached and isolated, not even realizing what I am missing. Lots to think about. Thanks.

    1. daylily – I know topics like this to someone with your experience can cut deeply. As you think, remember you are capable and strong, but leaning on others in the right way, especially Jesus, can only make you more capable and strong.

  3. Dale, this didn’t cut me deeply – it touched me deeply. It also encouraged me to get out there and join a women’s Bible study group. Thanks!!! We do need each other, and I need these blogs of yours.

    1. Angela – you reminded of an additional point, made to my friend at Wahoo’s: Self-definition as an independent person can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We convince ourselves we are like “this” and then live in “this” box where it’s safe and we know who we are.

      Love ya.

  4. This was challenging to me. A large part of me wants nothing more than to be submerged in relationships with people I can lean on, and yet independance can be so alluring, while dependance can be terrifying.

    1. Tammy,
      Like Renee said about our pending 11th child, and I keep repeating: It’s not bad, it’s just hard.

  5. Dale,
    I am so glad to be able to read your blogs, and they always are worth reading. I am preparing to send this to a person I know that could stand to hear this point of view and I think it will be helpful to their current place in life. I feel like isolation could be be used interchangeably with how you address independence and I hope your words spark some important realizations for my friend.

  6. i think i keep tricking myself into believing that independence is good. probably about time to quit. why do you have to keep pushing!? it makes me push back and out to everyone else i can push on!!!!

  7. I am needy too…very needy. And in a place where the ideals of independence even go as far as to scorn neediness and say I should just “cowboy up”, it is great to know I am not alone. Many days it’s all I can do to remind myself that it’s OK to be needy and that I don’t just need to get over it, pull myself up by my boot-straps and cowboy up. I can try all those things, and I will fail, because I’m no good alone. Thank you for offering what you have so that people like me know we’re not alone.

  8. Sorry it took me so long to comment. I appreciate you Dale- and your thoughts. I’m glad that I’m a co-dependant. (Geez, that sounds weird.) Even though I agree that independence is not the best of things, I still have a hard time acknowledging my co-dependence. It sounds weak. It feels weak.
    Do you know when it feels good though? When I fail. It feals good to not fail alone. When I fail alone, I feel small and fragile. When I fail with others, or if others stand with me, I feel encouraged, not because of the failure, but because of the support I have in my friends.

    One of Faith’s favorite words is “Mine!”
    There it is- the lines she’s starting to draw. You have yours, and I have mine. Growing up is hard- learning we need each other so deeply. She’ll learn- as will I. It’s about the journey- the shaping. That’s the point.

  9. i think a better word to describe it is interdependence (mutually dependent; depending on each other). has a bit of a healthier ring to it.

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