The Lie of Self-Sufficiency
“Make friends with your needs. Welcome them. They are a gift from God designed to draw you into relationship with him and with safe people.” - Dr. Henry Cloud, Safe People
In this season, God is teaching me something that is probably literally changing the projection of my life, and He's used the writings of people like Dr. Cloud (quoted above with more info at the bottom of this post) in the process.
I used to believe that the goal in life was to have it “together;” to be self-sufficient. The nature of my life reflected this belief in pretty much every aspect, too, and only would’ve grown in this direction. I wanted to have it all together, I wanted to love someone who had it “together,” and I wanted to surround myself with those characterized by personal “togetherness.”
In so many ways, the Lord had already shown me how faulty this was to the point of change, yet, in so many ways I have found that I still subtly pursued this self-sufficiency internally.
I’ve come to see very clearly that self-sufficiency is a lie and running in those circles is empty. Nobody is or has the ability to be self-sufficient. We all have needs. An attitude of self-sufficiency only perpetuates the lie that we lack needs, when the truth is we only lack the humility and trust in, primarily, God, but also the "safe" people in our life, to admit and acknowledge our needs. I suppose we fall into this by allowing our minds to tell us this story:
If I acknowledge that I have needs > I am incomplete > There is a certain level of brokenness within me > Brokenness is bad / brokenness makes me unworthy of love / God expects more of me > It is not ok to acknowledge I have needs > I convince myself I am self-sufficient, either suppressing any and all needs or believing that I can fulfill all of my needs on my own
The Gospel tells us a different story, though. The Gospel speaks to how our brokenness - the very depths of our need - is the means by which God meets us where we are in a mighty way. I'm thinking of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Exodus 4, Joshua 7, Judges 6-8, John 17, John 21, and pretty much all of the Psalms.
And so, now, I am learning to simply live aware of and honest about my brokenness; my needs; my emotional, spiritual and sometimes even literal physical needs. I have found peace in my brokenness because God has the space and freedom to meet me there, whereas self-sufficiency sells me the lie that I don't need Him, therefore I leave no space for Him to meet me in my need.
I’m (re)learning that God never asked me to have it all together. In fact, He sent Jesus because He knew I didn’t, never would and never could. He’s only asked me to bring him my brokenness. What an exchange, huh? My brokenness for His perfect, blameless Son and all that freely flows from Him.
I’m learning I would much rather love somebody who lives the same way - aware of and honest about their brokenness. When you can love and be loved within brokenness, it’s a love worth having.
I’m learning I’d rather be surrounded by people who are more concerned with authenticity and sharing themselves, as messy as that gets within the reality of this life. Needs leave room for connection; real connections, with depth. While God can and does fulfill our needs, He created us for connection with others and sometimes those connections are the means by which He chooses to do it. I know that has been the case for me.
Think about it this way...the extrovert is someone who requires being in the company of other people to "recharge." (This could be for many reasons; we all are who we are and behave the way we do for a reason that is often deeper than we take the time to realize.) Their personality is driven and partially defined by their need to be around people. It is part of what makes them who they are. Force them to suppress that need and suddenly they aren't who they are anymore, but give them the space and freedom (and safety) to be who they are... well that gives way to an authentic relationship.
The safest people in life are those aware of and honest about their own needs and brokenness. Someone who cannot do that for themselves will never be a safe place for yours. When you have no safe place to bring your needs, you either isolate or suppress them to the point of denying you have them, therefore ultimately denying part of who you are. What an exhausting way to live.
So as Cloud said, make friends with your needs.
They are the gateway to the true connection you were designed for.
About the Book and its Authors*
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend wrote Safe People: How to Find Relationships That are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't because "too many of us have invested ourselves into relationships where things have gone wrong. You may have experienced being judged, manipulated controlled, or worse. The impact of being with an unsafe person can be damaging to your confidence, your trust in others, and even your health. And what's more, we either repeat the same mistakes of judgment over and over, or else simply give up on trying to have great, authentic relationships again. This book helps you learn how to avoid repeating your own mistakes and how to pick safe, healthy people for the friends you make and the company you keep."
Dr. Henry Cloud is a Christian, an acclaimed leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author. Dr. John Townsend is a Christian business consultant, leadership coach and psychologist. He has written or co-written 30 books, including co-writing the best-seller Boundaries series with Dr. Cloud.
*Just for the record... I have no affiliation with either author, any retailers, and I do not profit anything if you choose to purchase the book. I simply strongly believe it is well worth the read!