There is a lot of talk about Self-Care lately. Why? Because there are a lot of very overworked, over-committed, stressed out, anxiety-ridden people – young and old. A lot.
We’ve been told we can do it all, so we try. We’ve been told we can have it all, so we get it. We’ve been told the world is ours, so we expect it.
The answer to all this burnout, stress, anxiety and depression seems to be “self-care”. Self-Care urges us to put our own needs first, occasionally, in an effort to avoid ending up in the ER (or putting someone there)!
Get that massage. Buy that purse. Get whipped cream on your iced latte. Light up that scented candle and take a long bubble bath. (Side note: All those things actually sound really good right now. 😉)
Good things. All of them. Helpful things.
We’ve even taken it to a better place where we consider making time for solitude, prayer and Bible reading to be “Self-Care” or “Soul-Care” as some call it. Make ABIDING a priority.
Now we’re talking.
I’m proud of us all for fighting this culture that wants us to be exhausted, busy and overwhelmed. I think Satan uses those things to keep us all angry, stressed and looking just like the world. Because if we act and operate just like the world, then we aren’t very bright, little lights, are we?
So, I’m sold on this idea of Self-Care. Except, I believe it goes way beyond alone time with your favorite Netflix show. I believe our first obligation is to our own souls’ condition. I believe this is a command. It’s also a gift from God. I believe that all work and all love and all giving must flow from fullness and not be given begrudgingly.
I’m so sold…I want to take it to the next level.
What else can we do? What else can we learn from the Word? What does Jesus teach us about how to best maintain our center of peace and our wellspring of joy?
Today, I offer a few ideas.
#1 - Set Better Boundaries with Your Time
Setting boundaries boils down to being more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing others. When pressed, 9 times out of 10, people who are giving out of compulsion, living on emptiness and having a hard time saying no, will eventually say “But I don’t want others to be mad at me.”
Ok then. You have just decided that the approval of others is more important to you than the approval of God.
Or maybe what you are saying, when you agree to do something even though you don’t want to do it, is that you think the essence of being a “Good Christian” is never saying no.
Yeah, we are supposed to kind, but can you be kind when you are empty? I mean really, can you? Can you really love others with you own finite supply of love? No.
God does not tell us to sacrifice our body, mind and soul for the benefit of others. He tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, to Him. (Romans 12:1)
Did you catch that? He wants us holy, long before he wants us to be productive. He also wants us to be joyful. If you can’t give (your time, energy, effort or even money) with a good attitude, He tells us not to give at all.
What does this have to do with setting better boundaries with your time?
Self-Care can not just be reactive. Oh! I snapped at my brother so I probably need some alone time. Shoot, I cussed at my spouse so I better get a mani-pedi. No. Start to think ahead. Look at your schedule. Plan it out. Say no sometimes even if you don’t have a concrete reason. Keep yourself from snapping in the first place, if you can.
Make time, all the time, to just enjoy loving & learning more about God before you "do" anything else. (Luke 10:27)
#2 – Say No to Inappropriate Behavior
I absolutely love when Jesus shows love…for Himself. He repeatedly refuses to give into cynicism, manipulation and baiting questions. Have you seen it? He’s so matter-of-fact about it that it is easy to miss.
When we feel mistreated or misunderstood we can fume for days. Not Jesus.
He didn’t sit around with the disciples and complain. “How dare the religious leaders try to make me look foolish with their questions!” “Did you see the way Herod mocked me, it hurt my feelings!” “I don’t understand why you guys still don’t understand who I am, I need you to believe in me!” He’s not offended or surprised when sinners act like sinners and people are just…dumb.
He doesn’t take it personally but He also doesn’t take it.
Look it up, it’s so great. (Luke 5:15-16) (Matthew 12:46-50) (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-22) (Luke 23:8-9) (Matthew 16:23).
He just shuts it down and moves on.
I think that’s the key to saying no to inappropriate behavior in life. Don’t get too worked up. Be matter of fact. Just say no. Just call it out, without getting mad. Just move on.
Someone I used to know liked to jokingly guilt me. They would sometimes say things like “How dare you. You just ruined my whole week” when I said I couldn’t have lunch with them. One day I said, “Nope, I’m not responsible for your emotions, don’t put that on me.” We laughed a little. It was awkward. They got the point.
I also had a co-worker who liked to talk down to people in the office as a defense mechanism when she made a mistake. She would make someone else look stupid so she didn’t feel stupid, kind of thing. She tried it on me. Very calmly and kind of confused, I asked “Why are you talking to me like a child?” She never did it again.
Self-Care is about more than just keeping your reserves full, it’s also about refusing to let the precious reserves be wasted on situations that don’t deserve it.
#3 – Choose a Sole Focus
Jesus could have done more when He was on earth, have you ever thought about that? As a carpenter, He could have built physical churches. As a friend, son and brother, He could have made other people’s problems “His to fix.” As the Living Word, He could have written books!
Jesus had sole focus when He was on earth…the cross. He made His focus the greatest thing and that was that. He listened to His Father and showed restraint with His ability and power. I also highly doubt that He ever let himself feel guilty about the stuff He “could have done” or all the other people He “could have healed”.
Nah. He just did what He was called to do and could not have cared less about others opinions.
One of my life mottos has become, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I know. It’s incredibly hard to say no to good, worthy things. It’s even harder to say no to things that you are good at and people praise you for! Ah! There we go again…wanting the approval & acceptance of others over that of God.
The final way that I think we can take Self-Care to the next level is to choose, very wisely, what our focus is. What is the best thing, or few things? What we have to give is precious and powerful and frankly, not even ours. What is the sole focus the Father is impressing upon your heart and hard will it be to cut the other good (and bad) stuff out?
What’s the point?
Self-Care, when taken to the next level, restores and protects our soul. It allows us to be the most different and bring the most glory to God. This is what I want. I want my life, me, to be so different that it speaks of Jesus without me saying a word. If that means I have to tell people "no" and cut some stuff out, so be it. I want to be full.
Friends I’m challenging myself this week (and you!) to stay close enough to God that His love fully satisfies me and His acceptance completely fulfills me. Then, to allow that fullness to overflow into willing work, happy serving and cheerful giving. And say NO to anything or anyone who attempts to steal or misuse my precious peace.