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:
"Synergy" is an important (and currently quite popular) word meaning the combination of two or more people, points of view or approaches where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one can equal three, two plus two can equal five, or more. When two people or things complement each other or motivate each other in certain ways, the combined result can be much greater than the aggregate of what each could do separately. The word actually comes from the Greek synergos, meaning "working together," and is defined in the dictionary as "a mutually advantageous conjunction where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, or a dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the sum of individual component actions."
So "synergistic" would have been a good candidate for the alternative to independence, but it lacked something — it lacked the amazing, cosmic, perfect-timing quality where things fit magically together because of the Spirit's influence.
It lacked the quality of "synchronicity."
"Synchronicity" is a term made up by Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist known for his exploration of the subconscious mind. He used the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events" like a butterfly flapping its wings and affecting, ever so slightly, the climate in New York City.
Jung didn't get the spiritual connections, of course, or realize that there are outside-the-mind causes for these things that seem to go beyond coincidence, but his word is fascinating, because it begins to give us a way to talk about those amazing times when everything just seems to converge — like someone calling you just at the moment when you were thinking of him.
When you add the spiritual connections, it becomes a way to talk about the amazing timing of God's tender mercies in our lives and the connections between the thoughts and feelings of loved ones that can't be explained in cause and effect terms. It teaches us that "coincidence" is a word we use when we don't notice God's hand in things. And when you link spiritual synchronicity with spiritual synergy, you get our new word, "synergicity."
Synergicity, then, is the attitude and paradigm alternative to independence. Instead of saying that we can stand alone, it says that we are completely dependent on God. Instead of implying that we don't need others, it suggests that we are all interdependent, and that people working together can accomplish much more than the total of what everyone could do individually. Instead of exclusive focus on individualism, it focuses on family, on friends, on communities and on connecting everything to God. Instead of looking for ways to do better than others, it aims at ways of doing better with each other. Instead of striving to do things in spite of the circumstances around us, it prompts us to do things within and in harmony with the "circumstances" around us. And instead of the goal of lifting ourselves by our bootstraps to the objectives we have set, it teaches us to let God lift us to the foreordinations he has given us.
Synergicity is a lens through which we try to view the world a little like God sees it, with everything interconnected, everything benefiting from everything else, and in one way or another depending on everything else
And synergicity is the attitude that benefits and prioritizes families in an opposite way than how independence can tear them apart. As we try to shift from the "I" attitude to the "s" attitude, we will find that our family becomes happier with us and we become happier with our families.
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.valuesparenting.com. Their semi-private book "The Three Deceivers" is now available at Amazon.com.