Word of the Month: Independence

Curiously enough, the opening section of the Declaration of Independence does not actually include the words “independence” or “independent.” It does, however, include the word “liberty,” which is closely related to independence. Other words that are typically associated with independence are freedom, self-sufficiency and self-determination.

For me, self-determination is one of the most crucial concepts associated with independence. It involves setting your own path and charting your own course. Input from others can be valuable, but you as an individual (or as an entity such as a nation) are in the best position to determine what is truly in your own interest. Naturally, there are prerequisites that are usually needed for independence. Five-year-old children are not ready for full independence, nor are most 16-year-olds. It seems self-evident that an individual (or a group) needs skills, resources and maturity in order to achieve independence.

You can value independence and also recognize the importance of interdependence. We can think for ourselves and follow our hearts while we help each other out in families and communities and at workplaces. Even the Declaration of Independence recognizes interdependence. At the end of the Declaration, the signers “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” It can be challenging, but we can indeed pursue our own personal independence while actively participating in something larger than ourselves.

See more features from the July 2014 issue