The greatest virtues that one should try to cultivate are the habit of self-reliance. A man who relies upon himself wins a sort of glorious independence. For he has not to wait to be helped by others. To depend on others is to build on sand. I always take the help of my good right hand. Life to him is a great adventure, full of interest and excitement. He never feels dull and dispirited. “Most happy is he”, said Cicero, “who is entirely self-reliant, and who centres all his requirements in himself.” Thrown upon his own resources, he accepts the challenge of life, and develops new virtues new qualities. His latent powers awaken and flourish. He is ever ready to take the initiative, always confident of finding a way out of difficulties.
In our country, the lesson of self-reliance is particularly needed. We are by nature fatalistic in our attitude. Our tendency is to depend too much on fate or change, or some other person to help us and to pull our chestnut out of the fire. This habit destroys the springs of action. But if we have courage, and initiative, we may become the masters of our destiny. There are many who make their fortune by their own efforts. If it is God who has given us strength of body and power of mind, he surely expects us to help ourselves with these. It is our duty to develop the gifts that God has given us. The carter who started cursing Fate when the wheels of his cart fell in a rut is a typical example of this attitude. He should have applied his own shoulder to the wheels to lift his cart from the rut. The sleeping faculties of a man come out and bear fruit when faced with crisis.
Self-reliance is the parent of many virtues. The self-reliant man is patient and persevering. He does not envy others, nor does he think of begging favours of others. He faces his misfortune with a quiet courage. Therefore Emerson Calls self-reliance ‘the essence of heroism’, ‘the first secret of success’- The self-reliant man feels neither fear nor shame to labor with his own hands, if necessary. He is always learning new lessons, gathering valuable experience. His example is an inspiration and his achievement is an example to others. This confidence in himself wins him the confidence of others.
The history of human achievement is, indeed, a record of what man can do by himself. Great heroes, great scientists, great businessmen—they were all self-made men. Michael Faraday began as a bookbinder but came to be one of the greatest scientists of the world. Vidyasagar was a poor Brahmin’s son but he made himself the most honored man of his age by dint of own efforts.
Self-reliance does not mean that one should be proud about oneself. It should always go hand in hand with a proper feeling of modesty. Another defect to be guarded against is selfishness. A man should act not for himself but be ready to lend a helping hand to others in their need. Finally, the self-reliant man should not be unwilling to accept help from others. Generally, the world estimates us as we estimate ourselves. If we think poorly of our own abilities, if we look to others for guidance at every step, we cannot expect others to rate us high. The best course is to start working in our own capacity—”Have faith in God keep your powder dry.”