That Damning Independence

My online dictionary tells me “independent” means “not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinions, conduct, etc..” and “not dependent or contingent on something else for existence, operation, etc”. Even to the most extreme individualist, the idea of a world full of textbook independents must look scary– everyone unconnected and self-focused– that would really be Hell. Which is why I picked my title– a steadfast devotion to ourselves is a sure road down to Hades.

So why does modern Western culture hold up independence as such a high virtue? I can’t identify a single point of origin, I blame everyone from Aristotle to faith-alone advocates to the inventor of the printing press.

Whatever the cause, I find the results of our independence obsession both frustrating and frightening.

Last week I shared a story version of some of the key concepts from the book Married Love. I especially wanted to draw attention to the nobility of dependency in marriage. It is such a shame that women’s advantage of a predisposition to spiritual conjunction and a desire for reliance on their husbands is so often ridiculed and demeaned!

But the far greater danger I fear is that Western culture’s independence-peddling is creating an environment that impedes our ability to connect with the Lord. It seems yet another manifestation of our sense-of-self (aka “proprium”) getting precedence over God. I keep imagining Adam and Eve gorging on that Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with various modern psychologists and cultural leaders smiling approvingly at such models of independent thought and action.

So I have a little experiment for you. Following are five short quotes from the Word and Heavenly Doctrines. As you read them, try to imagine how a steadfast dedication to independence could make these Truths harder to accept and these practices more difficult to undertake. And maybe we can stop holding independence as such a lofty idea.

“Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end.” Arcana Caelestia 8455

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“Actual repentance is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord, and beginning a new life.” True Christian Religion 528

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

“Love consists in this, that its own should be another’s; to feel the joy of another in oneself, that is loving.” Divine Love and Wisdom 47

About Eden Lumsden

Eden is loving wife to Derrick Lumsden and full-time mother to five little men. She grew up attending the New Church of Phoenix, went to the GC College, married a priest and was promptly shipped off with him to Africa. They spent 6yrs enjoying the people and culture at the Westville New Church, near Durban, South Africa before returning to the USA in 2014. They currently live in Sarver, Pennsylvania where they dabble in self-sufficiency, homeschool their boys, and scheme of ways to help the Church. Eden finds the True Christian teachings about women and marriage to be particularly profound.

3 thoughts on “That Damning Independence

  1. I really loved your thoughts about independence/dependence and reading the quotes while thinking about that theme.

    It also made me think about the ways that these things can become unhealthy – sort of bad dependence compared to good dependence. There are supposed to be a good and evil side to every thing, right? I feel like part of why people have swung so far into independence being important is that dependence can be a very unhealthy thing (particularly with other people, but I need to think about how that could apply in relationship with God) when boundaries are not in place.

    I have had a few times in my life when I was in relationships where I did not maintain my own boundaries. I put too much significance on the other person’s feelings, reactions, actions, priorities, etc. and based my behaviour on those things rather than my own feelings, etc. Sometimes it is labeled as Co-Dependence. And it can be crippling, and in it’s most extreme an element of abusive relationships. I have learned about what that feels like and looks like in my life, and feel like in some ways for the first time in my life I am understanding how to care about a person in a full, dependent way without crossing my own boundaries in an unhealthy way. Real mutual dependence takes so much balance, respect, understanding, and willingness to accept the other where they are. And I feel like that can (confusingly) look like independence in some ways, when striving for good dependence. I think because of that I have found myself in situations where I am doing something in a boundaried, mutually dependent way that feels finally healthy and safe to me, but have had feedback that I need to be more independent. It is a difficult balance to find, but I have really liked thinking about it with these two articles. Thanks!

    1. Hi Abby. I’m glad you brought this up. I had thought about talking about this but decided to wait for another day. But I’ll give a few disjointed thoughts.

      I do believe that many concepts can be taken to opposing extremes but I don’t think everything has a good or evil side. The Lord has no evil side, for example. Nor do I think love to the Lord God Jesus Christ can be evil. However I think it can more accurately be thought of as “everything can be disordered”. Meaning I could place certain loves or needs unhealthily above others etc.. I have not had personal experiences with unhealthy relationships so I admit I’m composing my beliefs ideologically– but the abusive or just messed up relationships I’ve witnessed appeared to have a severe dis ordering of loves/values involved. The three main loves in a healthy order are love of the Lord, love of the neighbor, and love of self. In issues of abuse I suspect that the “victim” is placing love of the neighbor (in this case the abuser) above love to the Lord and obviously the abuser is enjoying love of self above all others. A truly conjugal relationship is only possible when the man and woman are placing their relationship to the Lord at the top. And that ultimately is what makes their marriage work. I think this pattern is true in any healthy human relationship, you have to place loving the Lord and following His directions for life as your main drive when you interact with others– this can require you to set up boundaries with other people or even stop having certain relationships because they are not in align with what the Lord teaches etc. Relaitionships are complicated–humanity is complicated– but I strongly believe the Lord gives us all the guidance we need for life if we turn to Him and His Word to lead us (and we can always make use of His priests, Godly friends, etc to help us learn).

      On boundaries with God. I think that that is the whole providence vs prudence tension. We are told to know and acknowledge that God is completely in control and we are nothing without Him but we are to act as if we were (proprium= self awareness). TCR 2-3 is a great passage for this.

      Anyway, those are the thoughts off the top of my head. Love you!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on dependence/independence, Eden. I was hearing what you were saying about society striving so much for independence, and wondered to what extent I fall into that category, and yet when I read the quotes you provided — quotes that I love — I could more clearly see the contrast, and how hard it must be for an independent-minded person or society to love {and depend on} the Lord! šŸ™ I hadn’t really given it much thought, before; maybe just a passing annoyance. And even with regards to myself, I don’t like to think of myself as dependent on anybody, exactly — inter-dependent, sure, but not *dependent*, that feels weak — but perhaps that’s a good thing, and that dependence on the Lord is paramount, not dependence so much on people? But then again, our predisposition to spiritual conjunction and a desire for reliance on our husbands should really be perceived as an advantage, as you suggested… Anyway, food for thought. Thanks for this perspective, I appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.