Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Myth of the Bootstraps

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

Today’s Reading; Isaiah 3-4; Galatians 6

The saying “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” has always bugged me. Typically when I hear folks say it they are describing themselves. They say that they have reached whatever level of success that they have on their own. And since they did it on their own then so should everyone else.

Why help people when they can do for themselves right?


This kind of thinking is exceedingly selfish and misguided. It is selfish because it implies that it is ok to view the world solely through one’s own wants and desires. Who cares about anyone else? As long as I’ve got mine then I’m cool. Good luck getting yours.

It is misguided because in every single instance it is wrong. No one has reached any measure of success without the help of another person. How did you grow into an adult without someone feeding you? How did you get shelter without someone putting a roof over your head? How did you get the job you have, or the position you have attained without someone hiring you, mentoring you, or giving you advice.

This is one of the strange things about American culture. Many folks would claim that this is a Christian nation, but the way that some of us view helping others seems to be decidedly unchristian. We say that we believe in Jesus and his teachings. We believe in “give and it shall be given to you” but when it comes to “love your neighbor as yourself” somehow his words get lost in translation.

Some may respond to me by saying that helping others isn’t help at all. It just enables folks to stay in a position of helplessness. In the most extreme sense of charity they may have a point.

But the fact of the matter is that EVERYONE needs help. No one has ever gone it totally alone.

I believe that it is in the best interest of all of us to help each other. The better my neighbor is doing then the better equipped she’ll be to help me when I need assistance. The whole is greater than the some of the parts.

So think carefully the next time you have the opportunity to help someone. Maybe it will be a kid who is looking for extra help on their homework or someone looking for a break to turn their life around.

As Paul said in the 10th verse of this very same chapter “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”

That sums it up quite nicely I think. 

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. This post reminds me of a song I haven't sang in along time by Hezekiah Walker. The song is called I Need You To Survive.

    "I pray for you, you pray for me, I love you, I need you to survive. I want harm you with words from my mouth I love you, I need you to survive. It is His will that every need be supplied, you are important to me I need you to survive".

    Man of God, I desire only the best that God has for you. I need you to survive. My life is so much better because God has used you to make a difference. Keep on keeping on.

    Much Love


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