Column: Independence is one stage of maturity

The writer pastors the Church of God Big Sandy and is a regular columnist for The Journal.

By Dave Havir

BIG SANDY, Texas--More and more people among the Churches of God are beginning to have a better understanding of the concept of independence.

However, some erroneous viewpoints still exist. Notice two.

• Some religious people (especially perceived leaders) use the term independent as a negative label. They often use the term as a synonym for rebellious.

Because they have a bias against the idea of independence, they cannot recognize it as a vital stage in the process to maturity.

Responsible parents guide their maturing children toward independence and interdependence. Likewise, responsible believers guide other believers toward independence and interdependence.

• Other people wear the term independent as a badge of honor. Because many religious people have bad memories of dependent religious structures, they overemphasize independence and do not progress into the next phase of the maturity continuum.

Growing up

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey discusses the difference between dependence, independence and interdependence.

On page 49 he writes: "We each begin life as an infant, totally dependent on others. We are directed, nurtured, and sustained by others. Without this nurturing, we would live only for a few hours or a few days at the most.

"Then gradually, over the ensuing months and years, we become more and more independent--physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially--until eventually we can essentially take care of ourselves, becoming inner-directed and self-reliant . . .

"Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success."

Moving past dependence

Dr. Covey describes the need to go beyond dependence.

On pages 49-50 he writes: "If I were physically dependent--paralyzed or disabled or limited in some physical way--I would need you to help me. If I were emotionally dependent, my sense of worth and security would come from your opinion of me. If you didn't like me, it could be devastating. If I were intellectually dependent, I would count on you to do my thinking for me, to think through the issues and problems of my life.

"If I were independent, physically, I could pretty well make it on my own. Mentally, I could think my own thoughts, I could move from one level of abstraction to another. I could think creatively and analytically and organize and express my thoughts in understandable ways. Emotionally, I would be validated from within. I would be inner-directed. My sense of worth would not be a function of being liked or treated well.

"It is easy to see that independence is much more mature than dependence. Independence is a major achievement in and of itself. But independence is not supreme."

Don't overreact

Dr. Covey warns about how people have elevated and glorified their perception of independence.

On page 50 he writes: "Nevertheless, the current social paradigm enthrones independence. It is the avowed goal of many individuals and social movements. Most of the self-improvement material puts independence on a pedestal, as though communication, teamwork and cooperation were lesser values . . .

"The little understood concept of interdependence appears to many to smack of dependence, and therefore we find people, often for selfish reasons, leaving their marriages, abandoning their children, and forsaking all kinds of social responsibility--all in the name of independence.

"The kind of reaction that results in people 'throwing off their shackles,' becoming 'liberated,' 'asserting themselves,' and 'doing their own thing' often reveals more fundamental dependencies that cannot be run away from because they are internal rather than external--dependencies such as letting the weaknesses of other people ruin our emotional lives or feeling victimized by people and events out of our control.

"Of course, we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist."

Advanced concept

Dr. Covey explains the superiority of interdependence.

On page 51 he writes: "Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept. If I am physically interdependent, I am self-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working together can accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone.

"If I am emotionally interdependent, I derive a great sense of worth within myself, but I also recognize the need for love, for giving, and for receiving love from others. If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own.

"As an interdependent person, I have the opportunity to share myself deeply, meaningfully, with others, and I have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings."

You, I and we

Dependence is the paradigm of you.

• "You take care of me."

• "You came through for me" or "you didn't come through."

• "I blame you for the results."

Independence is the paradigm of I.

• "I can do it."

• "I am responsible."

• "I can choose."

Interdependence is the paradigm of we.

• "We can do it."

• "We can cooperate."

• "We can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together."

At this point let me warn you about two ways people seek to keep others dependent upon them.

Keeping you dependent

• First, some emphasize the dependent label when they say: The Bible teaches that believers should be dependent upon God.

Of course it does. The concept of dependence, independence and interdependence revolves around the importance of depending upon God.

For the record, there is a monumental difference between promoting dependence upon our Father in heaven and promoting dependence upon men with religious titles.

Some men openly claim to be in a higher religious class that has spiritual dominion over the faith of other people and overtly claim that church leaders are part of the salvation equation.

Others waffle with their words about whether they have spiritual dominion over the faith of other people, but they make policies and practice behavior that reflect their inner belief that they indeed are in the salvation equation.

Someone may say: We are not so presumptuous to claim to be in the salvation equation. We only claim that if you want to obey God you must obey our physical leaders.

My response: And what happens if a person does not obey your physical leaders? Is his salvation in jeopardy?

Listen. I think it is great that religious organizations have leaders to discuss their service projects (television, magazines and youth camps) and personnel matters of their employees. However, the Bible is opposed to any theory that places dependence upon men into the salvation equation.

• Second, some emphasize the interdependent label when they say: If you are truly interdependent, you must listen to me and accept my ideas.

Some use the concept of interdependence to push their will upon other people. In other words, they seek to use the willingness of people to cooperate as an opportunity to promote themselves or their ideas.

Some guests will aggressively seek to speak in your home or congregation. However, you are under no obligation to accept their attempts to proselytize.

If someone seeks to finagle his way into your life, you have the freedom and the power to resist his efforts.

People who practice true interdependence do not seek to take away your independence.

And, if you give away your independence, you cannot truly be interdependent.

Independence first

Here is one final thought.

Don't be surprised when people who denounce independence have a difficult time adopting interdependent behavior.

As Dr. Covey writes: "Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Dependent people cannot choose to become interdependent. They don't have the character to do it; they don't own enough of themselves."

Once people learn to be truly independent, they can then move forward toward interdependence.

The August 2002 issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.

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