America has a fascination with freedom. Our entire country is founded around it, from the very opening tenants of the initial documents. We want freedom, in order to make a better life for ourselves and our families.
To do that, this country promises its residents the ability to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. You can make a good life for yourself, merely by working! Your effort will make you a success! All that you need to do is work for a while, and success will follow. You too can become “a self made man”.
What is a Self-Made Man?
A self-made man is someone self-sufficient. He doesn’t have to rely on anyone else to provide for him, he isn’t waiting on anyone’s schedule: he has what he needs, having done everything to sustain himself, by himself.
The only problem with this is that it doesn’t actually work, practically. America may have a fascination with wanting to make its people self-sufficient, but it’s actually rather impossible. No person is truly self-sufficient, independent, or self-made; everyone has to rely on something.
Let’s say that someone is rich, rich enough to retire early and still be provided for the rest of their lives. Is that person self-sufficient? Well, no, they rely on the grocery store to find food, the banks to keep their money safe and accessible, and other people being employed to provide them services, like fixing their cars or delivering their packages. In other words, they still rely on others.
Maybe this person does know a few life skills, and he can fix his own car or grow his own food. If that’s the case, where does he get the supplies from? His abilities, even though he’s doing all the work, need other people to help sustain them. Even if we said he can do all of that strictly by himself, is he then self-made?
Well, how did he gain all of the knowledge and skill required? They came from an instructor, whether that be a parent, friend, or teacher. Even in this, he is reliant upon the efforts of others. Even if he had no training at all, and everything came to him by instinct, he still has to breathe, doesn’t he? Everyone has a reliance on something outside himself.
The Self-Made Myth
America’s thought process, for many years, has been pushing people to not rely on anything else, even though that is impossible. The self-made man is a myth; everyone is reliant on someone or something else. We do have freedom and can make our own decisions, yes, but ultimately much of who we are and what we do originates with those around us.
What do we do with that, then? If we always have to rely on something, what should we choose: the career that’s always changing and that you’ll soon retire from anyway? The governments, with their many leaders who pass differing laws and bicker amongst each other, not forming a cohesive or reliable whole? What can we look to instead of relying on self or these other unsteady alternatives?
The Bible is a book that’s quite old, so you’d think it’s outdated, but that isn’t so. It points to a force that’s outside of just the physical things that are here: the Bible speaks of a God who made everything, in which everything is reliant on Him. He’s a caring being, who wants to provide for His Creation. That God communicates with humans—through His book—so that they would rely on Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3.5-6)
Only Relying on Yourself is Foolish
In the Bible, there are several stories about people who decided to rely on themselves instead of God. For example, take Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the ancient kingdom of Babylon: in the book of Daniel, chapter 4, this king looks around his massive and advanced city—complete with a wonder of the world, even—and says, “Isn’t this Babylon the Great that I’ve built… by my vast power and for my majestic glory?” (Daniel 4.30) This king has the impression that he accomplished everything himself! He’s “self-made”. But, God has a different message for him: “You’re reliant on me.” The king eventually realizes that God is right, so God returns his throne.
On the other hand, there’s a guy named Joseph, who goes from being his dad’s favorite son to being enslaved, then imprisoned. He relies on God, even though he goes through the wringer for it! But God turns the whole situation around and takes Joseph from prison to make him a prince. God, who stays reliable through all of Joseph’s changing life circumstances, brought Joseph through and ultimately gave him success.
You Can Depend on God
Is there anyone who is truly self-made? No, only people who rely on other things. Some rely on unsteady things, while others choose more stable ones: ultimately, everyone has to pick something.
The Bible offers an answer to this question: an all-powerful God who wants to help. He offers true purpose in life, as opposed to so much nowadays, and wants to bless His creation. Reaching out to Him requires that you stop relying on yourself, it’s true, but the reliability He offers more than makes up for the work that you have to do.
America’s freedom comes down to this choice: you pick what you rely on. It can be you, or it can be something else on Earth, but that’ll get outdated in a few years and erode away. Or, you could pick something outside of the physical things that you can see, and go with something that won’t decay. What’s better? You decide.