Self reliance, humility, and charity

As I’ve said before, I don’t think some people’s idea of self reliance can be achieved. I don’t think we will ever get to the point where we don’t need anyone else for anything. There are people who do it, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s really a goal for most of us. I have no intention of becoming a hermit just to be able to say I am completely self reliant.

There is another down side to taking self reliance too far. I believe the common term for this is “pride”. Knowing you should be able to do everything by and for yourself does not automatically bestow the ability to do everything yourself. At some point every one of us may and will need help. We will likely need to go ask for that help, no matter how hard that may be for us.

Asking for help can be easier when we have something to offer the other person in return. It’s another matter entirely when we have nothing the other person needs and it is unlikely we ever will. At that point we have little option but to rely on that person’s kindness. And that can be a very difficult thing to do, especially when you have been working toward, and perhaps even priding yourself on, self reliance. It can be so difficult that some people would rather just do without rather than ask for help, regardless of the consequences.

That is the point where self reliance becomes dangerous. When we sell ourselves so much on an ideal that we refuse to accept reality, we run a great risk.

Humility is the only antidote. We must realize that we cannot do everything ourselves. We can come close to that, but we have our limits. I can’t perform brain surgery on myself. I can’t rebuild an engine, even assuming I had the parts. I can’t control the weather. There will always be some aspect of my life that is beyond my control.

At some point we will need the help of someone else, or we will fail. Humility is what helps us put survival ahead of pride. It’s what helps us ask the help of someone who has no obligation to help us. And, incidentally, it is what will move that person to help you.

Just because you may not have anything to offer that person does not mean they are not aware of their own shortcomings. They may very well realize that they will likely need someone else’s help some day, even if that person has no need of help in return. A truly humble person recognizes their own faults and weaknesses. They will help someone simply because that person needs the help, not because it will bring them any direct reward, but because they know they may need help someday, too. They will help because they are hoping that is what the person they will need help from will do.

I’m not sure where this post comes from or where it’s going–or if I’m even making sense. I suppose it comes from the fact that even though I have a goal of self reliance, I’m still not making the progress I wish I were. I could very well be asking help from people who I can do very little for. It will not be easy. But I will need to do it all the same. Sometimes one needs to be more reliant before you can become self reliant, perhaps.

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