Thursday, January 17, 2008

Self-Reliance vs. Independence

Self-reliance is a big deal in Germany. Kids are taught early on how to do things for themselves. Two year olds are expected to dress themselves. Six year olds should be able to get across town by themselves. By eight, they should be able to shop for and prepare a meal.

The interesting, perhaps problematic, side of this is the way it is done. Discipline plays a small role in the process. When man and his two-year-old need to climb some stairs, he tells the kid to start climbing…and then waits. The child is not made to climb and seldom helped. They may be there for thirty minutes, working their way up. If a child needs to get dressed, the order is repeatedly given and the child eventually does.

With this process, the kids learn how to do things faster than in cultures where they are helped. However, with self-reliance they also learn who’s the boss; they are. When a parent tells them to do something, they decide to do it or it doesn’t get done. Sure, they learn to get dressed, but they also learn that they don’t have to do something until they want to. In another culture the child may take another year to learn things, but they also learn that when they are expected to do something, it will be done.

All of this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the end result is a German culture where people have a sense of duty that is self-imposed. People do things because they have decided they want to, not because of any authority in their lives. This creates a problem with the ultimate authority in life, and perhaps goes some distance in explaining why so many Germans reject God altogether.

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