Five Indicators Of Individualism

(taken from The Gospel-Centered Community by Bob Thune)

Building and enjoying healthy community is going to require us to believe the gospel, to believe that what Jesus did for us has power and relevance for the way we relate to God and others. This requires an intentional focus on our part. It means identifying the unbelief in our hearts that hinders our ability to love and serve others and to receive love from them in turn. It means receiving the healing, liberating truths of the gospel in ways that allow them to soak deep into the core of our being. And guess where this work of ongoing transformation takes place? In community.

In Western culture, individualism is like a windshield or a pair of glasses. We’re so used to “seeing through” it that we don’t even see it. We need some help to recognize how our self-centeredness actually manifests itself. Below are some indicators of individualism, some ways it may express itself based on who you are and how you’re wired. Choose the one or two bullet-point statements below that you see most o en in your life. (You may find bullet points that apply to you under multiple headings.)

1. Self-Reliance

  • You are proud of your ability to deal with your own problems and challenges without help from others.
  • You enjoy being asked for help but you rarely ask others for help.
  • It’s difficult for you to be vulnerable about what’s really going on in your soul because “those are my issues to deal with.”
  • You don’t honestly think you need people to grow spiritually; personal spiritual disciplines are sufficient (Bible study, prayer, theological reading).
  • It’s hard for you to receive gifts or help from people without wanting to pay them back somehow.

2. Self-Sufficiency

  • You may be thought of as a “good Christian” by others, but few people know you as you really are.
  • You may be outgoing and extroverted, but your relationships stay on the surface.
  • Very few people have full access to your life. You may disclose things to people, but only what you want them to know. You do not want them to dig deeper.
  • When relationships get hard, you tend to withdraw rather than deal with the issues.
  • You tend to measure spiritual growth by how much you know.

3. Self-Protection

  • You tend to keep others at arm’s length to guard against being hurt or rejected.
  • You measure spiritual growth or maturity by what others say or think.
  • You fear at times that if people knew “the real you,” they would keep their distance.
  • You avoid conflict. If people offend you or hurt your feelings, you prefer to say nothing rather than risk anger or rejection.
  • You might be addicted to approval. Your sense of value rises and falls on what other people say (or do not say) about you.

4. Self-Importance

  • You tend to be addicted to busyness; it’s the way you fill the void of deep relationships in your life.
  • You have a higher concern for respect from others (attention) than you have a sense of responsibility for others (sacrifice).
  • You are more concerned about what others think of your accomplishments (importance) than what they think of your relational influence in their lives (significance).
  • You tend to measure spiritual growth by what you have accomplished.

5. Self-Wil

  • You regularly choose work and hobbies over people.
  • Your schedule and priorities always take precedence; you don’t reshuffle your agenda to help or serve others.
  • You like having people around, but you don’t tend to take their advice or welcome their correction.
  • When it comes to church, you tend to ask consumer-oriented questions like, “What do I like/not like? How does this make me feel? What do I get out of this?” Your wants and goals are functionally prioritized over the needs of the community and the mission of the church.

Notice that the headings over all of these bullet points have to do with “self.” If your self-centeredness was transformed into a joyful God-centeredness, what would the results be for yourself and for the community around you?