You Can Be Spiritually Independent

"Flock Yourselves" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Flock Yourselves” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward


I remember the response when I first used the term “spiritual independence” several years ago. 

There was a lot of confusion and even outrage: 

“Christians are supposed to be in fellowship, not by themselves!”

“We’re not supposed to do it alone!”

“We can’t trust ourselves and must submit to those in authority!”


I was surprised. So I explained:

First of all, I’m not talking about isolation. I’m talking about independence. If someone wants to isolate themselves from others, that’s their choice. I don’t recommend it, but you’re allowed to. 

There’s no law forbidding us from being hermits. 

Although, our wisest spiritual thinkers acknowledge that developing a healthy spiritual life alone requires a great deal of wisdom and maturity and should not be entered into lightly.

What I mean by spiritual independence is spiritual autonomy. I truly believe we can be the captains of our own ships, the masters of our own destiny, and the authorities over our own lives.

If I wish to submit to a spiritual director, I should do it volitionally and not under compulsion with the understanding that I am free to end the relationship at any time.

Let me give an analogy: Lisa and I have been married a long time. Our relationship has gone in and out of health as we learn how to love one another better. We’ve come to a place where we are independent individuals who willingly enter into our relationship. We are each independent, but we choose to be interdependent, rather than separate or codependent. 

So, spiritual independence means you are the authority over your own spiritual life, and, if you wish, you volitionally enter into fellowship with others interdependently without losing your independence. If you wish to submit your spiritual care to another whom you entrust with your spiritual life, that’s your choice and is an expression of your autonomy. But, it’s understood that it’s a relationship you can sever at any time because your life is yours, including your spiritual life.

Unfortunately, you are probably required to surrender your independence in order to belong to the group. This is not only unnecessary, but it is damaging to your spiritual life.

But, you probably already know that or you likely wouldn’t be reading this. Be proud of yourself, because I am. Because most the people I know leaving the church is because they demand their spiritual independence. That’s a healthy move!

If the church would encourage and support our spiritual independence and value healthy interdependence rather than toxic codependence (which is often the case), there would be healthier spiritual lives and communities.

If you haven’t yet, you should read my book, “Questions are the Answer” on Amazon. I go into more depth there and there are lots of cartoons you’ll enjoy.

If you’re alone or lonely, join us at The Lasting Supper dot com.

Download my eBook "Money is Spiritual" for just $10!

8 Replies to “You Can Be Spiritually Independent”

  1. I am glad you exist.

    This makes me feel like I am not crazy… and the quarter-life crisis I went through the past 3 years is a normal reaction to ostracism of exploring the “trueness” of my faith.

    Still trying to find my way back in a church though, or a group. Not easy when I continue asking questions.

    Thank you

  2. I have been spiritually independent for many years. I do attend church, but otherwise, I am very much a hermit. I love your cartoons.

  3. I’m from an old Seattle family. As is not unusual there, I was raised without religion. A series of intense mystical encounters led me to take the possibility seriously. A blue collar worker for 25 years, I went back to college late in life, a science major. But I was suspicious of the assumptions of materialism and reductionism, and I absolutely could not subscribe to the dogma of evolution as random and purposeless.

    I decided to go to grad school in theology. I had become Orthodox because the Eastern Orthodox are masters of the transcendent and because I had been influenced by the most open to and affirming of the world among them. Turns out they’re rare. I went to an Orthodox seminary; doing my best to seem like a normal human, a task at which I failed utterly. Eventually, I ended up at the Graduate School of Theology at Berkeley, and I affiliated with the Jesuit School of Theology. I did learn to write well, and being mentored by Jesuits does hone one’s research skills. However, I’m what the Jungians describe as an introverted intuitive. Not a terrific fit with dominant thinkers. Nor, frankly, was I treated very well.

    In these places there usually are a few of what I describe as “spiritual wildcards.” Called to something by Someone, outside of normal channels. We have to find our way as best we can. If there is a certain Christian flavor to that spiritual urge, we may attempt to find a home somewhere. A few do comfortably, but in my opinion, most either submit to a Procrustean process or refuse and finally leave. I’m one of the refuseniks.

    In 2005, I was in my dorm room that belonged to the Episcopal school. It was just before Easter, and I had had it. I reached up to rip the Orthodox icons off my wall, when the face on a Benedictine cross “looked” at me, radiating compassion. Then, just for a few seconds, all a finite being could tolerate, I was allowed to feel what Jesus felt on the cross. All of the fear, loneliness, pain, disorientation, anguish, bewilderment, devastation, hurt, and despair of all creation of all creation while simultaneously going through that most human of experiences, abandonment, expressed as: “my Father, why have you forsaken me?” I fell back onto my bed, overwhelmed. Then I saw that same face smile slightly and say “it’s worth it, you know.” Not the suffering per se, but the struggle to become fully human, a spiritually mature individual, and an expression of the divine.

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