Many years ago I worked in a nursing home and I went to a residents funeral in which they played a song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, I was on my ‘return journey’ to God at the time, and words really jarred with me -true we can live life ‘our way’ but was it the right way, the way we created to live it, was our lives lived Christ’s way? It may have been lived our way, but now it has ended. The song was meant to celebrate ‘individualism’, but it felt empty and wasted.
Years later I read a chapter of a book by Simon Ponsonby and in it he coins the word: “Sindividualism” -the idea that we were created to be in community, in relationship, joined to each other and yet at the heart of sin is an egocentric-isolationism. Where we matter more than other people, where we sever ourselves off from community with one another and with God. Others need us and we are absent. We need other people and we pretend we are self-sufficient and self-fulfilled, not needing other people, which is not true. The same is true of us and God, we were created to be in relationship with God, who is because of the Trinity in a perfect and unbroken community of love, and yet the fall is a story of us shunning God and our need of him, to seek to be independent.
Sindividualism, is where we distort the vision of ourselves and our relationship to the world and to God, a self-delusional state. We think that in rebelling from God we become more of an individual but actually we become more of a clone, another generic sinner rather than becoming all we were created to be in glorious technicolour of God’s unique bespoke creation. The more we follow Christ the more we become who we were meant to be.
A challenge of going it alone is very endemic in our culture, we see asking for help as a sign of weakness rather than allowing our struggles to be a means of blessing and allowing someone else to excel.
We want to be singled out as we say “I did that” rather than be part of a community that says “we did this” we want our contribution to be noticed, we have need to compete rather than compliment one another, and with one another.
Sindiviualism says to other people “I don’t need you” -or perhaps only being interested perhaps in the occasional sparkly person, or perhaps sees people as objects for our disposal, a wrong view of ourselves we cause us to treat others as commodities, our desires are more important than someone else’s welfare.
Sindividualism is at the heart of the porn industry where dehumanising
exploitative objectification occurs when people are seen just as sexual objects, but porn not only dehumanises the victims but also the users of it.
Sindividualism is what turns a blind eye to ethical trade when we would rather have a cheap T shirt than one that is fairly made and produced, it doesn’t care about how our actions affect other people -especially not those whom we can’t see on the other side of the world.
Indeed, it is a distorted world view of self which -despite crippling loneliness- the wealthy hide away in gated communities longing for someone to call (who often never does). People retire to cottages in the middle of now where think that being away from people will make them happy, rather than wrestling (with the often difficult gift) of community, which although costly actually provides something we deeply need as human beings.
Interestingly we self-isolate ourselves (often damaging our own mental health) falsely thinking we will be happy; and yet one of the most barbaric forms of torture we can inflict on people is that of solitary confinement -separating humans from the pack!
In this sindividual and sometimes we try and compete with those around us, my desire to prosper comes at the cost of your failure, the desire to win -meaning that someone else looses is a symptom of this sindividualism.
Yet, the Kingdom calls us to see ourselves differently, to see ourselves through the eyes of our creator -the Trinitarian God- through the lens and context of community, the Africans call this Umbuntu “I am because we are”. So, different from the western idea of “I’m alright Jack”.
So, where spot ourselves falling for the lie of Sindividualism, lets replace it with a healthy and Godly view of our own humanity discovered within our relationship with God and with one another, where we compliment one another rather than compete.
There is an old cliché which says “there is no I in team!” somehow the challenge of Christian live requires us to “get over ourselves” in order to see God and encounter one another blessing them and being blessed in return.