Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence vs. Community

In early July the word "independence" gets thrown around a lot. Now, I'm a BIG fan of not being a British colony, and I appreciate our freedoms as a nation, but lately, I've been thinking a bit differently about the whole concept of personal independence.

As Americans, we're raised on the idea of the "independent spirit", told to grown up to be "strong, independent women" and the "Do-It-Yourself" culture has thousands of devotees, and I think we really believe  that independence is good.  But is it?

Does our independence make us lonely?  Does our insistence that we can do it ourselves mean that we never accept any one's offer of help?  Is "independence" just another word for "pride"?  Is it the way we keep others from seeing our flaws and making ourselves vulnerable?  When we die, will we think "I wish I'd been more independent?"  Or will we want a community of friends, family and loved ones by our side?

Having been raised in a family that would politely be described as quiet, and possibly more accurately as anti-social or eve hermetic, the whole development of a personal community is tough for me (even with the built in social structure of 95 in-laws!).  I would be the last to bemoan the fact that neighbors don't talk over the fence anymore.  Reaching out and accepting help is foreign and receiving advice and constructive criticism is unheard of.  And who am I hurting with my self-imposed, all-important independence?  Mostly me.

I cut myself off from those who know more and shut out opportunities to learn when I refuse to ask for help, or even accept offered help.  I miss out on a chance to make someone better of myself when I angrily draw myself up instead of trying to see myself through someone else's eyes.

Community, of course, isn't just one sided.  I could help others learn things.  I could tell people parts of my journey to encourage them on their way, and they could be better for it.

Depending on others to help me become better, and possibly help someone too might not be such a bad idea.  Today is my Declaration of Dependence - I can't do this alone - becoming better will take all of us!

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