Editor’s Corner: Less ‘me,’ more ‘we’

Amy Forbus Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

Amy Forbus
Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

“Community is not one of our American ideals.”

The statement came from a fellow Conference staff member during a retreat day discussion. I certainly didn’t argue with it.

In fact, I remembered a similar statement from a spiritual gifts assessment curriculum I used to teach in my local church work. To drive home the point that our God-given gifts are different for valuable reasons, the lesson writer pointed out that we lend too much credence in our culture to the idea of “rugged individualism.” The curriculum suggested that we move to a less independent mindset and claim “rugged interdependence” as our new standard.

Rugged interdependence sounds great. But what does it even look like?

For starters, it probably looks like a lot less of “me” and a lot more of “we.” Not the insular “we” that widens the gap between “us” and “them”; instead, it looks like the “we” that closes the gap—or that never created a gap to begin with.

The phrase may bring to mind team-building exercises on some wilderness trail or ropes course. But rugged interdependence can have implications in the day-to-day world, too.

The small group I’m part of through church provides a real-world example of rugged interdependence for me. We may not fit the typical ladies’ church group mold (in one of last year’s favorite studies, the spiritual memoir we used as our guide opened with an expletive), but we are learning rugged interdependence alongside each other, as a community.

Group members don’t pretend to have perfect lives. We admit our struggles and support each other through them. We acknowledge disagreement, then focus on what unites us. Ask any regular attendee, and she will testify that being part of this group—this “we” that seeks ongoing relationship with each other and growth in Christ—makes a positive difference in her life.

Granted, human beings cannot ignore “me.” Denying the need for self-care, even for a supposed good reason like caring for others, leads to ungratefulness, poor health, burnout and other negative outcomes. I hear the reminder often from those with more introspective, contemplative expressions of faith than mine: Even Jesus spent time apart from others for his own well-being.

We must not confuse self-care, that time apart that fills our spirits, with selfish “me time” that does little more than distract us from relationships with others and with God’s world. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we remain connected… interdependent.

Truly, isn’t life more abundant—in the sense shared by Jesus in John 10:10—when we recognize our need for each other?

To reach me, send an email message to aforbus@arumc.org.