Independence, according to Americans, is a good thing. Our society is taught to value independence. We teach our children to recite the Declaration of Independence. We celebrate ‘Independence Day’. Women are hailed for being ‘independent’ when they are able to succeed without having to depend on a man for her income. We attend ‘Independent’ churches and we praise people who are ‘financially independent’. Can independence be a bad thing?
What Separates Good Independence from Harmful Independence?
Independence, in the sense that you are capable of taking care of yourself and don’t have to rely on others for basic necessities — is a good thing. But a spirit of independence — that is, the idea that you don’t want or need anyone else, their opinions, or their approval — is a different matter entirely.
The problem with independence is that it isolates you, and once you are isolated, your own mind runs amuck. Normally, people who are well-connected with strong relationships get good feedback from others. When they withdraw into an independent spirit, it’s extremely easy to get sucked into all sorts of other twisted thinking.
Humans are designed from the beginning to function together. After God created the world, He said everything was all good, except for one thing: man didn’t need to be alone. From the moment God created a companion for Adam, humans have been more secure, safe, and even successful when they operate together.
All Humans are Dependent by Nature
For many years, experts in psychology believed that dependence on others was a trait of human weakness. But now the field of psychology realizes that, in order to be mentally, spiritually, and emotionally healthy, we must all have a degree of dependence on others. From the moment humans are born, they only survive based on their dependence on others, usually their parents, to take care of them.
Even the healthiest, highest-functioning adults are, to a degree, dependent on others. The CEO can’t handle all the production work and customer service calls, plus sweeping the floors and taking out the trash. He must depend on a team, sometimes many teams, to get it all done. Similarly, family units are dependent on each other to work together for the mutual benefit of all. We are social creatures by nature and by necessity. We’re simply designed and built for dependence on one another.
The Independent Spirit is Often Born out of Pain
But how can you know when your independent-mindedness becomes something that isn’t healthy?
This life is tough. As the old saying goes, “No one gets out of here alive,” and that’s true! Along the way, people get hurt. Parents hurt children. Spouses hurt one another. Siblings fight and feud. Friends betray friends … It’s impossible to get through this life without experiencing some pain.
People deal with pain in different ways. Some try to hide in the bottom of a pill or liquor bottle. Others get involved in unhealthy relationships so they don’t have to face the pain alone. But many people fall into a dangerous painkiller called the “Independent Spirit.”
The Independent Spirit causes us to stop relying on others, as we are designed to do, and begin relying only on ourselves. We depend only on our wisdom, our knowledge and experience, and our abilities.
Let’s see how this works out in real life. Which is safer, walking to your car late at night by yourself, or walking with a group of friends? Could you raise children without the help of friends and family, and even some babysitters? Would you invest a large sum of money without getting the advice of a financial counselor? How would you do at work if no one else showed up Monday morning, and you had to do everything from answer the phone to cleaning the windows to making production — all on your own? Everything we do is better, faster, and easier when we work in concert with one another. Many things are completely impossible to do all alone.
But deep emotional pain causes us to retreat from other people. We start believing we’re better off doing our own thing and making all our decisions on our own. This leads us to make many costly mistakes, because the Bible tells us that, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
The Independent Spirit Leads to Vulnerability and More Hurt
Just like the lion and the jackal separate their pray from the herd before an attack, our enemy Satan likes to separate us from the safety of others so that he can attack us. When we aren’t surrounded by a strong support system, it is so easy for him to attack our minds, telling us things like “I don’t need other people,” and, “I’m better off alone.” But once we are isolated, living our “independent” lives, we no longer have the safety, security, and comfort that God intends us to have in one another.
Have you fallen into the trap of the Independent Spirit? People who get caught up with an independent spirit quickly fall into other traps, as well. For example, since they’re hiding from pain, they begin being afraid of their standing with other people. They become insecure, and often callous or indifferent to the feelings of others.
Independence also causes us to hide our pain behind a mask of pride. We want to believe we can do it all alone and we want others to think we can do it without them, so we become even more isolated and afraid to let anyone see our real pain.
Overcoming the Independent Spirit
It’s important to understand that an independent spirit doesn’t kill pain at all. In fact, it can lead to all sorts of other hurts and heartaches. It damages our relationships with others, isolates us, and blocks our ability to deal with life circumstances in healthy ways.
If this spirit of independence sounds like you, I have great news! Eden Westside Baptist Church is in the middle of a fantastic new teaching series called Painkillers. We’ll talk about different unhealthy ways people try to cope with or escape from pain. We’ll also learn how to deal with pain the right way — through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Join us Sunday at 8 a.m. or 11 a.m. at our Eden Campus or visit our Leeds River Campus at 11:00 a.m. to hear more about your Ultimate PainTaker, Jesus. You can also see the entire Painkiller Teaching Series, along with many other helpful resources, at Eden Westside’s Website.