“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” ― Thomas Jefferson
[one_half padding=”4px 10px 0 4px”]Social media has evolved very quickly and at this point it is almost easy to forget that a mere seven or eight years ago we were all on MySpace rather than Facebook, loading our profiles with too many things that blinked and photos that were too large and videos that took forever to load. One of the peculiarities of that application which now seems rather absurd was the ability to not only see someone’s friends, but to dig down and see their friends’ friends and even their friends’ friends’ friends. I’m sure the concept in the beginning is that it would help people with similar interest find each other. No one really thought about the stalking aspect, or that employers would actually use that against people.
Yes, you read that correctly. No, I’m not kidding. I saw it happen. I was hanging my photos for an exhibition in a coffee house and a group of three ministers from a nearby church took a table near me and began talking about a fourth colleague, the church’s youth minister. The primary focus of the conversation was that the senior pastor had gone through the youth minister’s list of MySpace friends and then gone through the lists of friends of his top ten friends (creepy, no?). Within that second group, the friends of friends, was found one young man who had posted a photo of himself holding a beer bottle. That was all the senior pastor needed to see. Obviously, by his judgment, the youth minister was not sufficiently careful in whom he befriended and, therefore, must be fired.
I’m not sure what bothered me more: that the pastor would dig so very deeply to try and find an excuse for firing his young minister, or that neither of the other ministers present rose to the youth minister’s defense; they both very quickly agreed with the senior pastor that the youth minister would have to be gone before the next Sunday, which was only two days away. Such shallowness, such cruelty, and such absurd reasoning struck me as not merely non-Christian, but a severe level of Authoritarianism that was not only unreasonable among the clergy but in any employee/employer relationship.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 10px”]We tend to think of independence as something defies our need of anyone else. Yet, as Jefferson intoned, we need friends and allies who are equally committed to make our independence actually work. While it is admirable to think and do things for one’s self, realities of life require some network of colleagues or friends, no matter how loose it may be, who might offer assistance when reasonable and necessary. Part of being independent is choosing exactly who it is we wish to have standing with us, and for whom we ourselves might choose to stand.
When I was a child, my parents very carefully chose my playmates for me, cautious to make sure that neither the child nor the child’s parents might prove to be an improper influence. Almost the instance I moved away from home, however, I took no time in expanding my circle of acquaintances to those with whom my parents would not have approved. Over the years, my circle of friends has included witches, drug dealers, shamans, a whole host of LGBTQ people, strippers, prostitutes, and yes, even Irish Catholics. While not all of those ultimately upheld that friendship, a surprising number did and there are still several within that list that I could call for help right now and know they’d come running.
Independence is to not be under the authority of someone else, but it does not exclude the need for friends, and even friends of friends. The test of independence comes not in who we choose as friends, but in our ability to not let our friendship become an encumbrance upon anyone else. Not only must we value our own independence, but that of our friends. Among those with whom we might pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our honor, there are no labels nor any form of moral judgment, for when they are genuinely friends any other title is irrelevant. [/one_half_last]