The Lie of Self-Reliance

As a high school student, I can remember carrying a stack of textbooks, barely able to hold their weight. A classmate noticed my apparent struggle and asked if they could assist. I responded with a sharp, “No, I got it!” A few years later, as a young adult, I was on a mission trip to Jamaica. One day we moved forty-pound cement blocks for nearly two hours without rest or even a break for water. Another volunteer noticed my fatigue and asked if they could sub in for me. My response? You guessed it: “No, I’m fine!”

I can do it on my own…I don’t need anyone…I can’t trust anyone…I can only trust myself. Have you ever said anything like this? Or, have you ever believed that you could make it through this life on your own? We live in a time where being independent, totally independent, is a sought-after quality. Don’t get me wrong; independence is not a bad thing. It becomes a problem when we believe we can do everything ourselves. The problem? It can shove others out, most notably Jesus.

“Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The truth is we cannot do everything ourselves and we were not made to do everything ourselves. Sometimes we need to go back to the basics. We already have a Savior, and His name is Jesus, not me (Kelly Colangelo), and not you. We have a God who chooses us, desires us, loves us, and wants to be in a relationship with us. Countless stories in Scripture illustrate people who needed a Savior. We are all in need of a Savior. Identifying the trap of “I can do everything on my own” or “I don’t need anybody” is crucial to a life of freedom. Here are some important reminders for us to better recognize our self-reliance.

  1. The devil doesn’t want us to find this lie.
    Through many experiences in life, usually those associated with pain cause us to adopt the mindset that “I can only depend on myself.” Then once we do, bang! The devil pounces and does not relent. The author and father of lies (John 8:44) will do everything he can to prevent us from untangling this lie in our life and lure us away from the truth. He wants us to believe that we are alone, that we carry burdens alone, and that we don’t have or need anyone. How do we fight this? We must stay grounded in the reality that we did not make ourselves. We came to exist through others and, ultimately, another. We need others. We need Jesus. What is the source of your self-reliance? What lie have you believed?
  2. We are made for community.
    You and I are hardwired for relationships. One of the downsides of self-reliance is that you don’t let other people help you. This can lead to you being overwhelmed or making others feel bad (unintentionally) because they feel like you are not open to inviting them into your life. It is not bad if we can complete a task independently; the bad thing is when we refuse to let others help (especially when you can really use the help). The importance of embracing vulnerability is crucial to connecting in community. Sometimes, self-reliance can rob us of authentic and true friendship that we desire and need. Without vulnerability, relationships struggle. It is ok not to have it together and share our struggles with trusted peers. Vulnerability is a key to connection because it is the courage to be open to others. When we are brave enough to be ourselves, we permit others to do the same. Has a past relationship closed you off to others and made you self-reliant? Do you fear rejection if people see your brokenness?
  3. Total Surrender
    St. Faustina says, “Oh, how good it is to abandon oneself totally to God and to give Him full freedom to act in one’s soul!” Easier said than done, right? A common tendency amongst individuals is to rely on themselves when the current of life is smooth, and we do not seem to need anybody. Then, when something arises in life that we cannot control, such as trying out for a sports team, awaiting acceptance into college, or something life-threatening like a friend or family member getting cancer, we beg of Jesus to hear our wants and desires. Recognizing when we are falling into the “I can do everything myself mode” will help us lean into and build a trusting relationship with God. Even when the current of life is uninterrupted, we always need total surrender and reliance on Jesus. Do you pray for an increase in trust with God?

We can’t do everything is a true statement. And how relieving and freeing it is knowing we are not made to do everything on our own. We have a Father in Heaven who rejoices over being with us on our journey. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him” (Ephesians 1:3-5). Amen!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

About the Author

Kelly Colangelo

I got an award for having the neatest hand writing in second grade, my mom did my homework. I’m not a morning person; I love ketchup, blueberry cake donuts and mint chocolate chip ice cream. I want to go to heaven… and take as many people with me with as possible. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram at Kelly Colangelo.

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