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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Depend On Me

I’ve written before on the subject of self-reliance, but today I want to come at this topic from another angle. Let me start by saying that self-reliance is a trait that we often associate with strength and resilience. But we sometimes confuse self-reliance with a particular kind of independence, or at least we often view self-reliant people as loners, aloof and apart from others in their lives. In my experience this is the stuff of Hollywood and cheap fiction.

I don't know about you, but I’ve had my fill of rugged heroes who go it on their own, needing and wanting no one. We all know the truth, that inside they are wounded and their rejection of love, of caring for and about others, is a cover for bitter disappointment and hurt. My rejection of these caricatures is not based on disbelief that such people exist in reality, I know they do and I feel for them. I cannot imagine anything more dismal and soulless than to go through life needing and wanting no one else in my life, and I do not suspect any of you feel otherwise.

Nevertheless, it is a tired convention to hold up as paragons those individuals who are fiercely independent, that march to their own drumbeat. So, let me tease out why I think we find virtue in independence.

Perhaps the greatest myth about independent people is that they don’t depend on others. On the contrary, most I’ve known are surrounded by people they respect and care about deeply. Their independence arises from a mature reflection; a conscious decision to find their own way and stand for those ideals that define their character. But do not be deceived into thinking that such individuals stand apart. They may go their own way but they bring others with them. We know these people—the ones who lead with quiet determination, passionate zeal and a sense of personal destiny. We could easily assemble a list of these personalities through the ages.

When we ask ourselves how people like this find the courage and fortitude to stand for principle that goes against accepted convention we don’t have to look too hard to find the motivating force that sustains them. They are not superhuman—however much they may do things that may appear to exceed human potential. The source of their courage lies in a belief that they have a personal responsibility to act; a responsibility not to themselves but on behalf of something greater. Love of country, and love of our fellow human beings are two of the most powerful of these forces—and I would add a third, love of God. As I often do when speaking about God, I am not speaking in the abstract, however. I am talking about that higher self that dwells within us—the divine spirit that is the motivator of all noble deeds. You may call this power by another name, but we all recognize it as a truth.

The power, these individuals possess is an exponent of love. It summons sacrifice, nobility, courage--all of those rare attributes we hold dear. And the wellspring is love—for why else do men and women lay down their lives? For who else have our real heroes throughout history done the extraordinary and impossible, if not for others?

Which brings us back to where we started. It seems a great paradox that those who stand apart are never alone, and those who go their own way are seeking a way forward for us all.

So, the next time you feel the calling to stand up for something, remember that you are not alone.

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