I don’t know about you. (Actually I think I do.) But I am wired to take care of myself. It is pretty natural to do what feels like is best for me. But then, what feels best isn’t always what really is best…
For years I had an aversion to the very phrase “self-care.” It felt selfish, self-consumed, not other-centered, not giving or loving or all that good Christian stuff. And to some degree, I still fear that the notion can be used that way. But I was a little too judgmental.
For some of us, we are very uncomfortable taking care of ourselves. We tend to be givers more than takers, but not necessarily for the right reasons. We may not think of ourselves as worth taking care of. We hide our own lack of value by being valuable to others. We may find way too much of our own identity and value in being givers.
Others of us give and give because we think we are more Christ-like if we do. We are taking Jesus more seriously. We are hard after His call. We want people to look at us and think “Wow, he is really committed!” We may find ourselves keeping score, aware of where we stand in the scale of people that seem to be more loving and giving than others are. We may be trying to create some place in the world where we are needed.
Yep, I was describing me. I made my way by giving. It sounds noble, but it can be so very self-serving. It sounds humble, but it can be used so very arrogantly (a little like the Pharisees and their awareness of how they were doing versus the rest of the sinful world). It sounds spiritual, but it isn’t.
Jesus had some hard things to say to the Pharisees. The people that showed off their faith, really didn’t have much of one. They were accused of giving for the accolades of men rather than of God. They got their reward, and it wasn’t a divine one.
There is a cost for all who give too much and give for wrong reasons. It leads to arrogance or anger or burnout. Why don’t people see? Why don’t they give back? Why don’t they care?
Self-care is really taking care of what God has given you, so that you can give to the world. If I don’t take the time to renew my heart and soul and body, then I will not have what I need to give when it is my time to give. And yet to slow down and rest, to be refreshed, for a driven man like me, can feel like torture. It can be empty. I can feel like I don’t deserve it (which makes me wrestle in good ways with God.) It actually can make me much more aware of my own vulnerabilities and dependence on Him. So “self-care” can take me to “God-care.” It can…
Now I still think the best way for most of us to lean is toward giving more of ourselves away to God and to others. I still think we need to think in terms of sacrificial love, in terms of what is most helpful for others. I still think we are all fighting a selfish heart or selfish nature. But it just isn’t so black and white anymore. I/we need to take care of ourselves if we are going to have the resources we need to give sacrificially when He calls.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.