When independent thought, belief, expression, etc. is strongly suppressed and controlled by an outside force, party or organization, it can easily be interpreted as oppression. The desire to be free, to be ourselves, to believe how we choose, to be responsible for our own lives and choices is a very strong drive in us. This unquenchable thirst for liberty is what motivated the original 13 colonies of the US into a Revolutionary War against Britain. The success of that fight for independence is what we celebrate every year on July 4th. It was an astounding feat that led to the formation of a new nation; a nation quite probably with more freedom and independence than anywhere else at the time.
But what happens if indepence is taken too far? Can it be taken too far?
I believe it can, and in many ways I’ve seen it happen in people’s lives. As a society and culture, we seem to have somehow embraced the notion that being truly independent and free means not having to rely on anyone else for help or subsistence. This is not everyone’s mindset of course, but still seems to be a very prevalent undertone among many people. A subconscious belief for some, a very forthright stance for others. Particularly in the “battle of the sexes,” it seems that many women have adopted the concept that in order to be considered truly equal and self-sufficient, they must assert their independence and reject other people’s offers for help or provision. That may be part of the reason why so many seem to reject the attempts of some men to act as gentlemen by opening doors, pulling out chairs, taking and hanging coats, etc. for their female counterparts. When such actions are now mistakenly interpreted as a statement of the female gender’s weakness or necessity for males to provide for and protect them, it’s no wonder people get defensive and stop trying to be courteous to others.
The truth however, is that usually when people do courteous gestures as mentioned above, it is out of respect, a desire to serve and honor the person they are with and to make them feel as comfortable and valued as possible. Somewhere along the line, we got this idea that dependence on others is a bad thing, or somehow means we are weak or incompetent in our abilities to take care of ourselves. This is simply not true. The root of this lie is based in pride. The idea that I’m good enough by myself and don’t need anyone else. By design, we are made to rely on one another. That is part of relationships. That is what family, love, and friendship is all about; giving and receiving a “shoulder to lean on,” encouragement for the disheartened, praise for achievements, support for those who are struggling.
We are not meant to be isolated and go through life alone. There must be a balance between independence and dependence. They work well together when balanced properly, and become detrimental when taken to either extreme. I have heard my mother say a phrase that has stuck with me, though I’m not sure where she picked it up. I believe this statement to be absolutely correct: Any strength taken to an extreme becomes a weakness. Independence is valuable, important, and healthy. It involves the ability to take responsibility for one’s own actions, plan ahead to provide for needs and solve problems, critical thinking, imagination, self-expression, freedom of choice and belief, as well as general acceptance of and freedom to be who you are – your most genuine self. Independence becomes unhealthy when it causes us to refuse help when needed, to misjudge respectful gestures as attacks on personal abilities, or as an excuse to push or cross the boundaries of ethical behavior.
Dependence is only bad when it is used to control or manipulate other people. Children are dependent on parents for guidance, protection and provision, which is important for their development and safety. Families depend on each other for support, both physical and emotional. Yet, with the ever saddening breakdown of healthy families, people then turn to other friends and neighbors in their communities for support. Those who can’t find support when they need it face some serious personal difficulties and sometimes break under the pressure. Healthy dependence on one another is part of a healthy community and leads to healthier, happier individuals. Find people you trust. Build those relationships from scratch if you have to, but do what it takes to find those people in your life on whom you can rely. Independence is nothing without support. It’s a weird catch 22. Independence requires healthy doses of dependence in order to sustain healthy independence.
Think on these things for a bit and evaluate your own life for areas where you may want to try to start living more In-Dependence.
Have a blessed Independence Day!
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