27 June 2011

The Paradox of Self Reliance

I taught a lesson in church last week on the principles of self reliance. It was a lesson I spent the better part of the week preparing for because I was slightly afraid that I'd get on too big a soap box and offend everyone in the room. See, self reliance is one of my pet topics. And my ward, being where it is, consists primarily of people still living with their mommies. In fact, I think I'm one of the great minority in that I am 100% financially independent from my parents, a college grad, and have a career instead of a "job". I was afraid that, being me, I'd go off on a tangent that would throw off the spiritual groove. So I prepped extra.

And I found some things about self reliance this week that I hadn't quite put into words before that I think are pretty glorious. Let me share:

One of the biggest reasons people say self reliance is important in lessons like that one is that when you are self reliant you have more time to develop spiritually because you are not so worried about temporal things. There is some definite validity to this. When you're hungry on a regular basis or stressed about finding a job, or not sure where you're going to sleep for the night, there's not much time (I'm assuming - I've never been in a position like that before), for studying gospel principles. Or at least not much time. And that's fine. President McKay and President Grant have both spoken on that idea more than once. It's why the LDS church has a welfare program structured the way that it is.

But this idea doesn't quite account for the great Christlike demonstrations of charity you hear about from those who live in third world countries or in poverty. Study of the gospel by sitting down with the bible in your hands is not the only way to learn to follow Christ, after all. What I found so interesting as I studied the reasons why self reliance is so important is because of its relationship to agency.

When a fully capable individual decides not to take care of himself or herself temporally or spiritually, they are handing their agency over to someone or something else. They are choosing not to choose - which is a passive slap in the face to the principles of agency that Latter Day Saints believe were bought with a huge price. When a person chooses to act for themselves, however, they grow in more than one way. They grow in confidence and ability, but they also gain more appreciation for how much they really do rely on the Lord in all things. The more self reliant you are, the more you realize how reliant you are - and the less self reliant you are the more you attach yourself to sources that will crush your freedom rather than preserve it.

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