“Self-Made Man” is an Oxymoron

The other day while driving I heard a politician’s ad that caught my ear (yeah, it’s already that time in the election cycle again). The ad talked about the man’s parents and his blue collar upbringing, it talked about his education at an Ivy League school, and it mentioned his business. Then he was referred to as being a “self-made” man, and that’s when it got my close attention, though not likely the attention they were shooting for when the ad was written. You see, self-made man is an oxymoron.

We are all made of the people in our lives. The wisdom they impart shapes our own, the victories and defeats we witness inform our choices, and the relationship we have with them leaves indelible marks on our own character, for better or for worse. None of us is raised in a vacuum, and none are untouched by the lives of others. The work ethic that lead to this man’s success was not his own, but that of the hard-working parents that loved him enough to pass it on, among others.

We all owe our teachers. Whether it is the teacher that laid the foundation of your ability to read this article (Mrs. Jackson), or the one who taught you how to play the trumpet, piano (Mrs. Roberts), or drums, or the Sunday school teacher who taught you how to pray (shout out to Mr. & Mrs. Clemmer), your teachers are all parts of the mosaic that is you. You did not become proficient on your own, despite what a prideful heart may tempt you to believe. The education this man boasts of did not fall from the sky, it came by the noble efforts of teachers…teachers who deserve his gratitude.

He is not alone, though, and this article is not to pick on him. Truth is, we often speak of our accomplishments as though they are the fruit of our efforts alone, denying those who shape us the gratitude and honor they deserve. And who is more responsible for the gifts of parents, teachers, and other friends, family, mentors and influences that have shaped us than God? How silly it must sound to the Creator of all things for us to lay claim to being “self-made!”
As you think of those who have shaped you, thank them, and thank the One who by His providence and will brought them into your life, so that you would be the man or woman of God that he is forming you to be.

“Give everyone what you owe him… if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7, NIV

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