The myth of the self- made man



Have you heard this one? That rich guy over there, he’s a self- made man. People sometimes say it of others, but usually people say it of themselves if they feel their lives are particularly boast-worthy. The implication is that the person is where he or she is solely as the result of their own efforts. Rags to riches stories become “look what I did all by myself” stories. “I didn’t rely on anyone to get where I am today, especially not the GOVERNMENT!!”

Laying the government question aside (does anyone really think that the infrastructure that our taxes pay for have nothing to do with why they’ve been allowed to succeed in this country?), the idea of a self- made individual is nonsense. I’ve been a parent for about seven months now. My wife and I have a 6 month old infant and an 18 month old toddler that we just adopted from Ethiopia. I’ve been feeding Isaac (our Ethiopian son) and changing his diapers every day. A few days ago it dawned on me that if I wasn’t there to stuff oatmeal in his mouth in the mornings, Isaac wouldn’t survive. There’s no way he could help himself. The fact that he’s alive today is due solely because a few dedicated women at an orphanage in Ethiopia fed him constantly for six months after he was discovered as an abandoned newborn.

And then another revelation dawned on me: the fact that any of us are alive today is because somebody took the time to feed us, clothe us, and change our diapers when we couldn’t do these things for ourselves. Somebody did that for me. In my case, it was my parents. For others, it may be an orphanage, an aunt or a cousin, or a foster parent. Even those raised in abusive situations, if they survived the toddler phase, it’s because someone saw to it that they survived, perhaps even the abusive parent!

So before you make the claim that you’re a self- made man (or woman), think about this. At one point in your life, in order for you to survive, somebody had to feed you, clothe you, change you, and wipe your butt. And that “self- made” man or woman that you admire so much? Somebody had to wipe their butt too. Humbling isn’t it?

Posted on July 5, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nice, Aaron. I'm really liking you as a daddy.-Dan Sidey

  2. Yes, I think it brings a new dimension to my writing.

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