Tocqueville defined individualism as “a mature and calm feeling which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and to draw apart with his family and his friends,” leaving “society at large to itself.”
We know that a democracy is the best form of government and America truly is the country historically with the greatest amount of freedom, yet how do we figure out a way to reduce the extreme poverty, and counter the extreme divergence between the haves and the have-nots? How do we instill a sense of responsibility in our children and loved ones, while still encouraging individuality—and not individualism?
Maimonides spoke of the Golden Rule, which exists in the center and not on any extremes; my real question this week is, how do we get there? How do we find that balance?
This specific balance I’m referring to is our responsibility to ourselves, versus our responsibility to the greater community. It would be foolish to give away all of our money, hence the biblical law that we only give up to 20%. Yet, it’s—dare I say—immoral to look at money as our own and not give away any of it, hence why we are commanded to tithe.
My question is, how do we accomplish this, and how do we teach it to the next generation?
The first question is a difficult one, yet once we accomplish balance, the way to teach it to our children is by example, and more importantly, doing it with a smile. If we give to charity, yet we make it seem like a burden, the next generation will think, “why should I burden myself”? It’s not okay to only give, instead, it’s most important to do so with a smile.
Regarding individuality versus individualism, I believe the answer goes back to loving thy neighbor like thy self and treating others the way you want to be treated. When you see someone suffering, remind yourself, what if it was you that was suffering, and what if it was you that was in pain and everyone ignored you? Don’t (heaven forbid) say someone else will handle it, yet also make sure you aren’t actively harming yourself in the process.
In step 9 of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, it states we must make amends, except when to do so would injure ourselves or others. Thus, watch out for both yourself and others.
This week, let’s remember, I must love myself, just not too much more than I love others.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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