Essay # 1
- The self-reliant can affect more than the diffident.
- They always come to the front in times of emergency.
- Confidence in oneself is the chief nurse of magnanimity Historical instances.
- Those who have confidence in themselves gain the confidence of others and thus succeed in life.
Self-reliance is a quality of great practical value. The man who has well-grounded confidence in his own powers can affect far more than a diffident man of superior ability, who timidly, for fear of failure, shrinks from tasks that he could quite easily perform. In the struggle of life self-reliant men are sure to come to the front. They are always willing to accept the post of difficulty and danger. If their trust in themselves is well-grounded, they gain honor in the eyes of the world, and even if they fail, they are spurred on to renewed efforts by the conviction that they will succeed another time. Thus it was well said by Sir Philip Sidney that confidence in oneself is the chief nurse of magnanimity
If we turn to the pages of history, we shall find that the most splendid instances of magnanimity proceeded from self-reliance When the Athenians saw their city in the power of the Persians and had every reason to suspect their allies of treachery, they magnanimously refused to listen to the tempting terms offered by the enemy, because they relied on their own ability even then to save the cause of Grecian liberty. A similar spirit of magnanimous self-reliance was shown by the Romans in the war with Hannibal. Although they had been defeated in three great battles and had seen Italy ravaged from the Alps to Calabria by their seemingly invincible foe, they nevertheless had such confidence in their strength as a nation that they scorned to think: of coming to terms, and Hannibal to his Surprise heard that the very ground on which his camp was pitched had been bought for a good price at a Roman auction.
It was a similar spirit that inspired Sir Francis Drake and the other English commanders in their contest with the Armada. They were playing a game of bowls when the news came of the approach of the hostile armament; but instead of being startled out of their tranquility by the intelligence, they quietly finished their game and then proceeded to take measures to defend England against the threatened invasion. It was again a feeling of reliance in him and the free spirit of the nation that made Hampden stand out boldly against the tyrannous exactions of the king. When Caesar in the civil, war was deserted by Labienus, his highest and most trusted officer, he voluntarily gave permission to such of his other officers as had served under his rival, Pompey, to go over to the enemy. He was, too confident in his Apolitical and military genius to attach importance to the slight diminution of his strength that their departure would effect. They were, however so touched by their leader’s magnanimity that they refused to leave him.
Even when self-reliance does not lead to such conspicuous instances of magnanimity as those we have been considering, it is a serviceable quality that will be of great assistance in the affairs of ordinary life. The world is generally inclined to save itself the trouble of careful study of character, and therefore, as a rule, accepts everyone at his own estimation. The man who has no confidence in himself has little reason to expect others to put confidence in him. We always find that in times of trouble the body turns to the self-reliant man, and all are ready to trust their fortunes to his guidance. Thus the self-reliant man gains in power and influence and obtains the most responsible appointments, while the diffident man is again and again passed over and cannot seize the opportunities of gaining distinction that is thrown in his way.
Essay # 2
Dependence which is good and necessary
The wrong kind of dependence.
A lark, says an old fable, built its nest on the ground in a cornfield and reared its young amidst the growing corn. When the corn was ripe, the little ones in a great fright told the mother-bird they had heard the farmer say that he was going to ask his neighour to come and reap his corn for him. But the wise bird was not at all disturbed and said, “If that is all we need not be in a hurry to go yet.” But when soon after they came and told her that the farmer said that, as the neighbour had not come, he was going to cut the corn himself, the lark said, “Now it is time for us to go,” and flew away with the brood. The moral of this story is, “If you want a thing done, do it yourself.”
This is the lesson of self-reliance, which is the opposite of dependence on others.
Of course, a certain amount of dependence on others is not only good but necessary. Children must be dependent on their parents, and the weak must depend on the strong, and the sick on the well. And in a sense, all of us, even the most independent and self-reliant, are dependent on one another. At any rate, in civilized society, it is impossible for anyone to make all the things he needs. No man can produce all the food and clothes he wants, build his own house, make his own furniture, and all the hundreds of useful things he requires every day of his life. He can only produce one or two things and must get all the others by exchange or purchase from others, who are doing the same thing. So in a community, everyone is dependent on the service of others, while he himself contributes to the needs of others. But, so long as we are doing our fair share, we are not dependent; for mutual help and co-operation is quite consistent with individual independence and self-reliance.
The contemptible dependence on others which is the opposite of self-reliance is the dependence on others for the goods and services which we could and should provide for ourselves.
This kind of dependence may be due to laziness, or lack of confidence. Idlers, who shrink from honest work, attach themselves like parasites to rich and influential people, and by flattery and servile adulation get money and favors from them. Such hangers-on are to be despised. Different people, who are afraid to rely on their own opinions and efforts, are to be pitied, and, if possible, taught self-confidence and self-reliance.
True self-reliance means knowledge of one’s own powers, reasonable self-confidence, and a determination to be independent and to stand on one’s own feet. It is well expressed in Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith”:
“His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whater’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.”