The Myth of the “Self-Made” Man

Vladimir Legoida is the Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Department for Relations with the Society and Media. He also holds professorship in the Russian Foreign Ministry University. In the following article, originally published in the Foma magazine (of which he is a founder and Editor-in-chief), Mr. Legoida offers his view on normal family relations.

A self-made man. Now, however, more and more often it is a self-made woman. At the end of Soviet times, the expression came to us together with Hollywood movies, Dale Carnegie books, and Coca-Cola. It is clear, of course, that in a self-made country the people should also be like that. But I am not talking about America now. I mean the expression itself: there is a bit of cunning, untruth in it. I mean that even if you make yourself on your own, you always follow someone's example, to one degree or another, of course. It's a platitude. But there are platitudes that you only realize as you get older.

You grow up, you make your career, you get marreid... It seems to you that you have achieved everything on your own — self-made — and that's it. But suddenly, at some point, you begin to realize how much and how many people you owe. It's not even about gratitude. You weren't ungrateful before. It's about the degree of interconnection in this life — between people, relationships. And you begin to look differently at those near to you. At your teachers, your parents, your father. And especially so when you become a father yourself.

Today I see that my behavior and attitude towards those around me is the model I took from my father. Of course, my father is better, kinder, more charming, but my mode of relations is from him. From my childhood I remember how my father interacted with people — at work, in the store, on the street, at the gas station. And willy-nilly I imitated him. In my own way, of course. But him.

And now I realize that what my children, still small, will be like, depends largely on the way I behave in any given circumstances. They have no other daddy. It is clear that even the best parent, even knowing how to act, does not always act properly — justified by fatigue and lack of strength, waving off some request of the child, not paying attention to something. And in the end, who knows, maybe some minuscule, seemingly unpleasant moment in the memory of children will persist for years to come? Count Leo Tolstoy remembered himself from the age of two. I remember my childhood in episodes and flashes, fortunately, mostly bright and cheerful. And my loved ones are always in them, primarily my mother and father. How will my children remember me as I am today?

Another platitude: for parents, their children always remain small. Sometimes jokingly, and sometimes with irritation, I would remind my parents, “Come on, I'm well over forty!” In fact, themselves being over seventy and eighty, they are well aware that you are not 15 any more, and that you have your own children. Yet they remain parents – willing to extend care, protection, and security.

But the opposite is also true. For children, parents always remain “adults”, the elders. We feel comfortable next to them, feel calm in the soul from the mere awareness that they are near, for as long as they are near. There is such a profound feeling of security. No cold wind, no bitter frost is of any concern as long as daddy is here to protect you. "Aren't you cold, sonny? Let me warm your hands!"

Source: pk-semya (Russian)