We are best able to care for others when we care for ourselves well.
I commonly hear resistance and expressions of guilt when I urge my clients to care for themselves and increase compassion for themselves. Some feel, as I have at times, that taking more time, enjoyment, or resources for themselves would be selfish. There’s a powerful message in our culture that it is only right to “pay” for any form of enjoyment or rest. As women, therapists, moms, friends or as any kind of caretaker, rest and self-care can be difficult to justify.
For Christians, Jesus’ life is the highest ideal. The good Christian, we are told, should be self-sacrificial as Jesus was. But Jesus also took extended retreats of silence, solitude and reflection. Jesus also limited his serious time investment to twelve other people, and other times let brief interactions with people be meaningful enough without feeling a need to do all of the follow-up support himself. He didn’t sacrifice or apologize for the self-care and nourishment that he received through time alone to re-charge. Maybe it is time for a culture-wide shift toward truly loving our neighbors as ourselves rather than loving our neighbors instead of ourselves. In the command “love your neighbor as yourself,” love of self is implied. It’s an expectation and a given if we’re to be of any real service to others. If self-care is not present, it is inevitable that resentment will grow and on some level we will become angry about our repeated sacrifices to others but to continue anyway out of a need to be needed, a desire to feel useful, or a compelled want to be informed and in control.
Isn’t that what’s selfish?
Err on the side of too much love and compassion for yourself today, and you may find, ironically, that you are set free to love and serve others more fully.