Tuesday, May 27, 2014

how to care for others

We wouldn't ever dream of giving up bathing. At least not for too long. Showers are one of those necessary things we just need to do. Sometimes it feels like we're too busy for it, and I must admit I've done that a few times, and deeply regret it. I try to be more consistent with that sort of thing, if only for my husband's sake.

But all too often there are a lot of important things in life that we just don't get around to, because we choose other things or we allow a busy lifestyle to get in the way. Taking care of ourselves is one of those things that we must take time to do.

Self preservation runs pretty high on the list of things that we as humans naturally do. When faced with a predator, we will most likely always run away. When extremely ill, we will seek out medical care, or at least the advice of Web MD. If we’re hungry, we usually eat. If we’re dirty, we bathe. These are necessary second nature actions that we take to keep ourselves alive and functioning. 

But what about our souls? Do we ever choose to run when the metaphorical predators come around? It doesn’t take too long for us to become unhealthy when stress levels skyrocket, toxic relationships abound, and we serve others to the point of self denial. Unfortunately it is often much easier to take care of the physical and seen needs we have than the needs of our souls and spirits.

I’ve been thinking about self care a lot lately, and have found myself struggling with the thought that it is just too selfish to take care of myself. All too often I feel guilty when I’m taking time to meet my needs. I shared these thoughts with Zac and he told me I should probably stop showering because it’s causing me to be selfish. He was being sarcastic, but he has a point. 

It’s obvious, we need to bathe regularly. And when I take the necessary time to do this I always feel better afterwards. A long hot shower cleans more than just my skin. The bonus of this is that the people I love won’t have to smell the odor that not showering creates. If I was showering and taking hours of each day for spa treatments and makeup, that would be one thing. That could be considered a little on the selfish side. But bathing and primping enough to make myself clean and presentable, and feel good about how I look, is a vital part of caring for myself. I don’t feel guilt over that. But too often I feel guilt for pursuing leisure like craft time, reading time, naps, or just a day out alone. As an introvert these things feed me, and I know that I need to make time for them in order to care for myself. 

God has given us these lives, these bodies, these brains, and all that comes with being human. He told Adam and Eve to care for all of creation. Humans are a part of God's creation as well, I believe God's desire is for each of us to care for our own selves, just like we care for any other part of his creation. 

Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)

I’ve always assumed that these instructions in the book of James are about how relate to others, but why not apply this to our lives? We know the good we ought to do: taking care of ourselves, but we choose not to. That is sinful. And not one of us gets a pass on this. How often have you heard, or even said yourself, I shouldn’t be eating this, This pace is too much, I should get more sleep, I need to exercise more, I shouldn’t be drinking so much, this relationship is toxic to me, I shouldn’t be zoning out in front of the TV. I have been guilty of each of these at some point in my life. We know the good we should do for ourselves, but we don’t do it. 

Self care is creating space in our lives to be healthy. It’s getting rid of bad habits and learning new and better ones. Self care is not at all selfish, it is doing good to ourselves.

Self care does not happen in isolation.

The beautiful thing is that self care causes us to be better at caring for others. Because we are doing good to ourselves we then have the reserves to give to others. Time, energy, health, and many other things become available to us when we practice rest and self care. And then we can give to others. Which is exactly the kind of life that Christ challenges us to live. It leads to an overflowing life, as we have poured into ourselves we have enough to overflow to those we love. Ultimately, it benefits our families and communities to have people who are filled, then giving out to others. We all win.

I know that I need to be better at carving out time to care for myself, especially with summer looming, and the reality of three kids home all day. Though I love that time with them, I know it’s often taxing. Maybe you can relate? When life gets harried, how could you carve out time just for you? And what would you do when you make that time?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • take a nap
  • read a book
  • go for a hike
  • putter in the yard
  • visit that new thrift shop in town
  • spend time praying and meditating on God's word
  • get a massage

Our families and friends do need us, but they need us to be whole and healthy. Everyone benefits when we do things for others out of place of health. We benefit because we are giving from the overflow, and the ones we give to benefit because they get the best of us. 

It’s time to stop feeling guilty about taking care of your needs. What can you do today, even for just a few moments, to care for your self?

1 comment:

I love to hear from you! Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts with me.

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