Independence and Individualization

“We have a disease called independence.”

Rob Bell, from January 24’s sermon, Ask Seek Knock

“Individualization means, amongst other things, to break free from the social mold and discovering your true purpose. Very often this runs counter to the pressures imposed by our social environment and hence individualization is very often revolutionary and crisis-laden.”

-Gilbert Ross, on Lifescape Artist

(first, a little note before we get down to business. i encourage you, yes YOU TOO wary-of-christians-person, to listen to the sermon mentioned above. OH MY WORD it is a whole new way of looking at the prosperity gospel nonsense. do it. DO IT! you will be changed forever, and that’s no small proclamation. but i mean it. and i’d tell you why, but i don’t wanna be a spoiler.)

So. two contradictory statements, right? Independence is bad! Individualization is good! Well, kids, I’m here to tell you that the two good things, interdependence and individualization, actually work better when they work hand in hand.

First, let’s get clear on what we mean by individualization. Individualization is just a big mouthful for being who you are. Being what you were meant to be, what you know you are deep down inside you when you’re not listening to what the dominant culture that surrounds you tells you is correct. Individualization is having the courage to discover your true self, to build on your strengths instead of trying to correct what society is telling you should be fixed in your weaknesses. In religiouspeak, this is called “following your calling.”

Second, american reader, you may be wondering what’s so bad about independence. Well, first, may i recommend once again that you listen to the above Ask Seek Knock sermon linked above. Bell explains it much better than I can here. But the core of it is, we get so hellbent on being able to take care of ourselves that we lose the joy of taking care of each other. We were designed for community. We were meant to ask for help (and we were also meant to have healthy boundaries and be able to say we can’t help when we really can’t or perhaps shouldn’t). We were meant to build each other up. We were meant for inter-dependence.

The two work best together, you see, when we are encouraged (by our surrounding community, who is building us up) to be who we are. When I am encouraged to build on my strengths, and willing to be part of an interdependent community, that community gains from my strengths. In a community that is building each other up and encouraging individual strengths, they then together form a whole.

you see where this is leading us folks? EACH SINGLE PERSON NO LONGER HAS TO BE ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING WELL. No one has to “do it all.” We can lend our own gifts to the community, and together we are stronger than any of us could be on our own. We can stop trying to be good at everything, stop trying to do it all, stop trying to fix what’s “wrong” with us and just keep strengthening what is naturally
Right.

Freedom! Actually more freedom to do your thing when you’re doing it with other people doing their thing. So, what we’re saying here, is that being independent could actually be Less free than being inter-dependent.

Wild.

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