A generation ago there was a beautiful movie, Out of Africa. Robert Redford played a confident man who believed that he was independent. He didn’t need other people. When his mistress, played by Myrle Streep, attempted to hold him accountable, he replied that such notions were offensive. He conveniently forgot that when he was a youngster, he was dependent on others. If he lived until he became physically decrepit that he would again be dependent on others.
Major forces in our culture laud the independent hero. It’s popular to believe we can each do what’s good in our own eyes and if it harms no one else, there is no problem. I disagree completely with that notion;
I believe that people are interdependent, and everyone is part of a broader community. In Bible times Jews and early Christians valued community above individuals. People commonly did what was best for the community, or the tribe or the family, even though it was at least temporarily to their own detriment. Many cultures value community above individual. In America we have a notion of taking one for the team and heroes are admired because they sacrifice for the greater good.
Most of us will need extra help for months, maybe years before we pass. Even before that season comes, we’re likely to need others, and they are likely to need us.
My wife, Sandy was competing in a triathlon when a freak wave knocked her down and broke her tibia. BAM! That meant three months in a knee brace and no driving. We were lucky. It could have been six months in a wheelchair and or hip cast.
Sandy has spent her life helping people. She has been generous, hospitable, and sacrificed for others. Now others are helping her. They’ve brought meals and driven her to appointments. They’ve offered emotional support and have run errands.
It would not have been like that for a person like Robert Redford’s character. They indicated by word and deed that they don’t need or particularly care about others. Few people are likely to step up to care for, support, or assist them … unless they’re paid.
My thesis is that the insidious cost of the quest for independence is isolation. You may not sense that when things are going well. But when you most need support, you’ll feel the full force of your isolation.
The quest for complete independence is the opposite of humility. A belief in independence assumes that you are special. Humility recognizes we’re each vulnerable and we need each other.
I believe that we are designed to be interdependent. Whether you believe in karma or grace or justice, my suggestion is that your actions show your concern for others. When, not if, you need help, you’ll better understand the law of the harvest. People you were “too busy for” may not help you. The community that you’ve supported is more likely to aid you.
What are your thoughts?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”