There are two types of conduct which turn a man to a gentleman, a woman to a lady. These are self control and self reliance. They mean almost the same thing, but we will illustrate them using different examples.
Where there is self-control, there is also control by others. There are some road users who drive within speed limits only if they see traffic police. In the absence of these, they drive as they like.
Such people often engage in over speeding and meet accidents. In their desire to reach a certain place at once they disobey traffic rules and safe driving. Those who eschew self-control expose themselves to control by others.
Some people become drunkards because they are unable to control their craving. The eighteenth century English intellectual Dr Samuel Johnson told friends “I can abstain from drinking, but I cannot be moderated”.
Some people say if you take one bottle at a time you cannot become drunk, but it is very difficult for many people to stop at a bar and depart having taken only one bottle. When they have taken one, they feel the urge to take the second, when they have taken a second, they crave for a third. They are unable to exercise self-control over their appetite. Alcoholic diseases control them.
Most of us know of classmates who were very clever. Once they got jobs and started earning salaries, they became alcoholic. They have spoiled their careers and often their health as well.
One of the most brilliant and beneficial Englishmen of the twentieth century was John Maynard Keyness. He died in 1946 at the age of 63 whereas his friend Bertrand Russell the philosopher died at the age of 97.
One reason why Keyness died prematurely was that he was too fond of champagne. He could not be moderate in its consumption.
People who cannot control their tempers engage in fights, kill or get killed. Those who get involved in crimes and corruptions like the Cashgate, have got low levels of self-control. They have the mens rea, guilt conscience, but are unable to restrain themselves. They think they will never be caught, but often they are mistaken.
Self-control is a virtue that can be cultivated. Some people have given up drunkenness and chain smoking through a resolution which they have never withdrawn. This is self-discipline which we all need.
Self-reliance is one of the habits that lead to outstanding success, while the help we receive from other people may take it easier for us to attain our goals. The greater the goals, the more self-reliance we must have.
Students have gone to universities on scholarships and obtained degrees. But as it is said, you may take a horse to the river, but you cannot make it drink. Unless the student studies on his own, he may not pass the examinations.
The greatest intellectual scientists that we have heard about acquired more knowledge after they left school. They engaged in self-education, which is a form of self reliance. Those who won’t learn anything except from teachers can never be more knowledgeable than their teachers.
Self-reliance generates self-respect. Those who do not cultivate their virtue of self-help or self- reliance often indulge in begging, they flatter those whose dull they heed. Sooner than later their beneficiaries realise that a flatter cannot be a true friend. To practice self-reliance you must at the same time practice self-control.
If you want to build a house using your own resources, you must regularly save a good portion of your salary. That means you must live frugally, foregoing most of the pleasures. Lord Thomson started his career as a book keeper.
Later, he owned many newspapers in Canada, United States, Britain and in Malawi where he briefly owned the Nyasaland Times. One day, someone asked the secret of his success. He answered “No leisure, no pleasure”. He built his newspaper empire through self control, self discipline and self reliance.