Self-reliance, loneliness, and hell

In our culture, self-reliance is often the goal.

The worst thing that can happen is that we become reliant upon someone else for some aspect of our life.

The ultimate existence is one that forges its own destiny; one that does not pander to others or to tradition, but cuts its own path. Something completely strange, and absolutely new.

You see, the only people we can trust are ourselves. We need to release ourselves from all other attachments and guides. They can’t be trusted anyway.

At least, that's the story much of our culture tells us. 

But this makes for an existence which pits us all against each other, or at least away from each other. One like C. S. Lewis describes in “The Great Divorce” where people just continue to move farther and farther away from each other, not wanting to be able to even see the light from another window.

The goal of self-reliance creates a lonely life.

A life of hell.

There was a time in my life that I wanted to be an island in the middle of a storm. I wanted to be the calm detached person that was not impacted by the world around him.

I wanted to be my own man, live my own life, and reject all other claims on my life.

Then I had children, and started to realise the emptiness of that kind of life. A rich life included opening myself up to my family in a way that I had never done before. It meant risking hurt, for sure, but at the same time it meant forging deep, meaningful connection. It meant trusting my life to others in ways that enriched it far beyond anything I could have experienced on my own.

We are not self-reliant, nor were we made to be. We were made for community. We were made to give and receive love. We are made to be people who care for each other, who help each other, who make a better life in community than we can on our own.

True life started for me when I realised I was not, nor could I be, self-reliant.