“Not everyone has it in him to be an intellectual, but according to Kierkegaard every man has it in him to be an individual, and to become more and more an individual.” For Kierkegaard, everyone stands before God as a single person. Even if one’s actions and beliefs are identical to one’s surrounding community, they will stand and be judged as a single person. These popular ideas and ideals which are imposed upon the singular person are what Kierkegaard referred to as “duty.” These are the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the person’s context, but these things on their own cannot give a person individual personhood separate from the crowd, as it is sourced externally.
Duty cannot give a person true meaning. For the existentialist thinker, a person’s meaning must come from within themselves. Searching for meaning within yourself is of course just as absurd as searching for meaning in the external world. Kierkegaard sought a means to ground meaning and purpose that would still give the person the responsibility necessary to become a true individual. He comes to the conclusion that one must make a radical decision in order to achieve this status; one must take a leap of faith and choose to follow Christ.
Humans, in Kierkegaard’s thought, are a mixture of the finite and the infinite, and our great despair comes when those two elements are thrown out of whack (normally by the favoring of the finite over the infinite.) God, being infinite, reaches out to us in the finite though the incarnation and invites us to be tethered to God’s infinity, allowing for us to connect to a source of true meaning. Kierkegaard names this meaning a person can receive from a relationship with Jesus, “calling.” If you choose to follow a calling, to let Jesus be the source of your ethical decisions and your relationship with God, and the lens through which you find the courage to move and make difficult choices in a potentially infinite world, you have in that moment become an individual. This is not the final stage of faith, but rather the start, the first surrender, the first act of obedience to the call is to leap.