Mormon Parenting: Why interdependence and 'synergicity' are better in families than independence

Published: Thursday, Oct. 27 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: Last in a series

Before we get started today, let us just mention that this is the one-year anniversary of this column. Time flies when you're having fun, which is what we are doing as writers and what we hope you are doing as readers.

Oct. 27 also happens to be Richard's birthday, so hit the comment button and say hello.

Now, on to the problem of "independence."

Independence is not what families or marriages are all about. They are about interdependence. The latter is better than the former — much better.

Independence is an erroneous notion in the first place. We are all interconnected and interdependent in so many ways. We need each other, and it is these needs that make us human and that allow us to love and that encourage us to make commitments. Too much emphasis on independence leads to isolation.

And we are all ultimately dependent on God.

Yet independence is such a revered concept that we have a holiday named for it. To need no one but ourselves, to stand alone, to be co-dependent no more — these seem to be the mottos of today. But despite them all, we continually find out how dependent we are, how much we need other people and how much we need God.

If we are to look for an alternative attitude to independence, it should be an approach to life that acknowledges our dependence on God and seeks his guidance in the serving, interdependent relationships we have with our human brothers and sisters. Yet at the same time, it should also recognize that one purpose of this second estate is to help us learn to think and to decide for ourselves.

Some might say, "How can you speak or write against independence in a land founded on it and emancipated by a document called the Declaration of Independence?" Of course, independence is a desirable political condition, and of course, personal independence is an asset in the context of thinking for oneself and taking care of oneself.

But like the other two deceivers (control and ownership), it gets dangerous and damaging as it is carried too far and applied to too many things. We have become a nation that worships independence and that equates strength with not needing other people — with "going it on your own" and with "doing your own thing." It is easy to forget, in this mode, how interdependent we all are. To need and to be needed is what keeps us human and humble and honorable.

The real problem with independence is in the "I." Independence, at the lengths we often try to carry it, is the attitude of "I." It's about me and about what I can do on my own. Real life, the way God intended it to be lived, is always about we, about us, about our interdependence, and about how all of us are brothers and sisters because we are all his children, and all equally and totally dependent on him. The old, positive "can-do" attitude is a great place to start, but a better (and higher) place is a positive "can't-do" attitude that essentially says, "Of myself, I am nothing, and can't do much of anything, but with the help of friends and family, and most of all with the guidance and assistance of God, I can do anything that is his will."

Since the alternative we proposed to "control" is "serendipity" and the alternative to "ownership" is "stewardship," it would be nice if the alternative to "independence" could also be an 11-letter word that starts with "s." So permit us to coin a new word, one that combines two other words, and create a third 11-letter word that can not only pull us out of the deceptive and negative clutches of the false concept of independence, but can also complement (and attract) the qualities and attitudes of serendipity and stewardship.

The word is SYNERGICITY, and as you may recognize, it is a combination of two other words, "synergy" and "synchronicity." Let us explain:

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