A national magazine asked me to write an article about becoming emotionally overwhelmed. So I hammered out 1600+ words. Yet, even as I wrote, another reminder of self-care affected my thought processes.
It has taken me so many years to believe and write this truth. But one purpose of a blog is to be forthright and honest, even vulnerable. So here goes my truth:
Self-Care is a valid spiritual discipline.
Many of us have been taught — dare I say “programmed” — to believe that any type of self-care is selfish, prideful, a sin. Taking care of ourselves feels somehow “less than.”
We believe if we completely wear out for Jesus, we are more spiritual and worthy of heavenly treasures. If we are utterly exhausted, we have completed our earthly journey and won the reward of the faithful.
Yet Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves. We cannot truly love others until we have learned how to love and care for ourselves.
And we cannot truly love ourselves until we search under the detritus of other-care to find our lonely souls.
But we are afraid of doing the wrong thing. So we live like the walking wounded, zombie-like versions of who God created us to be. We do for others all the time, sign up to volunteer at various places b/c they have needs and we think we must meet those needs.
Then we wake up one day, completely overwhelmed from bearing the burdens of everyone else and ignoring our own needs.
But Abba God has never asked us to kill ourselves, even for the emotional health of others.
My therapist once complimented me on some choices I made. To replace some old towels with new ones in the lovely colors I enjoy. To schedule a mani/pedi for myself on Valentine’s Day. Just because.
“Both of those decisions are self-care,” she said.
I did not even realize I was taking care of myself. But when I stepped back and saw the basis of these choices as self-care, they felt good. No condemnation. No drama and no guilt.
The beginnings of self-care happen by setting healthy boundaries, by daring to take care of ourselves and saying, “No” to anything that tries to break through those boundaries.
The first boundary is skin. Protecting our physical bodies is the first line of defense. Anything or anyone who violates that boundary is unsafe.
The second boundary is time. This area is where so many of us who have ministered to others fail. We make ourselves available 24/7, refuse to take breaks or even the PTO the job offers so that we can help meet the needs of hurting others.
We don’t see how we are actually harming ourselves.
The third boundary is more subtle, the area we bury until one day we wake up and realize we have lost our true destiny. This boundary is the soul. We ignore soul-care, letting time and other needs dominate.
But the soul is the basis of who we are. We cannot grow without its strengthening. We cannot truly be ourselves without listening to its needs.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way underscores the importance of artist dates. To go somewhere by yourself and for yourself. Not to do anything for anyone else or meet some sort of deadline. But just to be and enjoy the beauty of art around you.
A walk through the arboretum – not during this cold snap of course – but later in the calendar. Browsing through fuzzy yarns and fun crafts at Hobby Lobby. Maybe a late-night or early-morning ice cream run. I can vouch for the Queen of Hearts flavor at Sylas & Maddy’s.
One of my clients introduced me to the coffee shop and serenity of Family Tree Nursery. During Christmas, their trees were so lovely. I plan to go back for some writing time. Or maybe to dream about my spring garden plans. Or maybe just to sip a chai and take care of my soul-self.
I am putting together a list of things I want for myself in these late-in-life days, how I can spend my time just enjoying the moments and being myself, where I can rediscover the root of my dreams.
If that sounds selfish, well — I don’t care. Don’t judge me. I have spent a lifetime in ministry helping others. It is okay to now help myself.
The definition of grace deletes the need for excess works to please God. Grace means accepting his love for me, then recycling that love into a deeper understanding of who I am. Once I am free from the legalism of having to do, I can then truly love others where they are and for who they are.
It is time to learn more about loving myself and find hope in the process. Perhaps you can comment on how you are doing the same.
©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Check out my newest e-book: Finding Hope When Life Unravels.
This has been a hard truth for me to learn. I still give myself pep-talks on this very thing! It has required I let go of high expectations such as an immaculate home. The most freeing thing has been to write chores on sticks and give myself permission to do one chore a day at minimum. I can do extra chores or deep cleaning after I have invested in caring for myself.
Wonderful practical tool! I love the chore sticks idea. Good for you!
I try to make time every evening for either a book for pleasure, practicing art, or watching a favorite movie or series. I choose colored pens and pencils that speak to me. I listen to my favorite music.
Wonderful ideas, Lila. I have to remind myself to read for pleasure, b/c I so often read to learn more about the writing craft. I’m so glad you’re taking good care of your soul !
Thank you, RJ. You are right on track. I learned this truth the hard way through a burn out, from which it took 10 years to completely extricate myself. Bravo! Terry
Yikes – 10 years! Mine was about 3 years, but I still have to remind myself that it’s okay to do self-care. Thanks for reading and commenting. Stay warm !
Rebecca, thank you for this article.
I especially loved this paragraph: “The definition of grace deletes the need for excess works to please God. Grace means accepting his love for me, then recycling that love into a deeper understanding of who I am. Once I am free from the legalism of having to do, I can then truly love others where they are and for who they are. Judith
Thank you for the comment and the encouragement, Judith. Stay warm !