This is kind of a soap box post. And I'm going to cut to the chase on this one. I am completely and totally against self care.
There, I said it. Are you shocked? I told you this wouldn't be your average self care post.
Okay, in all fairness, I'm not against self care in theory. But I do have a problem with the most prevalent definition of it. It's a self care marketed heavily towards women that takes on the form of pampering, indulging, and relaxing all because you've been told that you're worth it or you've earned it. You've seen it before. It's everywhere! Even part of the slogan of some major companies. Someone might have even told you these things before. Things like, "You've had a hard week. You spend the whole day taking care of kids. It's time to take care of yourself! Leave the kids with your husband and go out and have some fun for the night. You deserve it!"
Are you worth it? Do you really deserve that massage? Do you really need that girls' weekend retreat? To me, in that context, those things are actually not self care. They're actually a spirit of entitlement masked as something innocent. If you get to do those things, awesome! I love having fun, too! What a blessing. But we aren't actually entitled to those things to take care of ourselves.
How often have we heard a worn out mom told that she is entitled to put herself first, and that the reason she is so worn out is because she hasn't been taking the time for pampering that she is entitled it? I have no doubt that the sentiment comes from well-meaning people, but it simply misses the mark. Believing that we are entitled to these indulgences to properly take care of ourselves ultimately robs us of joy, and does not bring refreshment.
The other reason I highly dislike promotion of this form of self care, especially in Christian circles, is that it plays on the idea that we deserve something. That we've earned it. You know where I'm going with this, right? Like I said, I don't doubt that there are some very well-intentioned self care preachers out there. But the Bible's pretty clear about what we deserve and what we've earned. Thankfully because of the blood of Christ, we don't have to get the penalty we deserve for our sin. Anything good that happens to us is not because we deserve it. It's all just grace. I believe when we embrace that, we are able to let go of a lot of guilt for not "making ourselves a priority."
Anything good that happens to us is not because we deserve it. It's all just grace.
Okay, Then What Is the Good Kind of Self Care?
So now that you have a good idea of what I believe true self care is NOT, let me share with you the kind of self care that I do think is honoring to God. Or maybe we just need a new term for it so we avoid confusion. Perhaps "Self Stewardship." Yes, let's call it that.
First, I think it starts with a firm belief that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). Did you hear that? We already have been given everything we need for our life and godliness. That means even if you never get a massage, never get a vacation, never get a full night's sleep, as a Christian, you have everything you need to accomplish the task ahead of you. And I get it. It's a hard task. I'm there in the trenches right beside you. We are all living out our unique calling, and God has equipped us to thrive.
So where do we find everything we need for life and godliness? In God's Word. I've written about this before. But the ultimate in Self Stewardship is to feast our souls on the Word of God and spend time in communion with the Lord. That's where we'll find true health and happiness. Entitled self care can rob us of joy because it keeps our mind focused on what we don't have. God-focused Self Stewardship points our eyes toward what we do have and brings joy.
What About Taking Care of Myself?
Ah, that is an important question. Honestly this is the part I struggled with for many years. Hear me carefully. I am NOT saying that you shouldn't take care of yourself. So don't send me angry emails. I'm just saying you are not entitled to being the first priority in your life. Afterall, we are told in the Bible to regard others as more important than ourselves. And the most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors. Nowhere are we commanded that we should love ourselves first.
Yes, absolutely! Take care of yourself. Eat the healthy food. Go on the long bike rides. Read the books. Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Spend time on hobbies you enjoy. Take the epsom salt baths. Reduce your stress levels. But do it because you want to take care of the body, soul, and mind that God has gifted you. Not because you think you deserve it. And don't do it at expense of relationships. After all, God did make our bodies to need certain things to remain healthy. And as I'm learning the hard way (that's a story for a different day), our bodies don't thrive under extreme stress or neglect. Quite the opposite.
Okay if you've read this far down in the post, did you notice that the activities of Self Stewardship that I mentioned look an awful lot like the self care activities I mentioned. That's because there is nothing inherently wrong with those activities. After all, we are created to enjoy life. Hear me out. The issue isn't the activities. But in the end, the difference between Self Care and Self Stewardship is all about the posture of our hearts:
Am I doing something because I feel I deserve it? Have I earned it? Am I the most important person in my world? Do I just need a break to be happy? Self care. Stolen joy. It will never be enough.
Am I taking the opportunity to take care of my body, soul, and mind so I can honor God? Am I viewing it all as grace? Do I recognize that even if I don't get a break that God will sustain me? Self Stewardship. Gratitude. Joy in Christ.
And that right there is why we'll be talking a lot about Self Stewardship on this blog and in my groups.
Have you been practicing Self Care of Self Stewardship? What is your favorite Self Stewardship activity?