Did you ever drive your car until the gas tank was empty? If you did, you know that fretting, fuming, and shouting didn’t help the situation. Engines won’t run without fuel, no matter how many times you wish or pray. In cases like this there’s only one thing to do: fill up the tank again.
It’s exactly the same where your capacity for life and relationship is concerned. Like your car, you’re what we call a “closed system.” Your energy levels are limited. If more goes out than comes back in, you’ll end up empty. If you neglect preventative maintenance (what we call self-care), the physical, mental, and emotional machine that is you will eventually break down. When that happens, you won’t be of much use to anybody. You can’t give what you don’t have—it’s as simple as that.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is the process of keeping your physical and emotional tank full. It’s a program for ongoing re-creation. It’s about keeping yourself in good working order so you won’t collapse, like a dilapidated bridge, when others need your support.
We know this is easier said than done.
Why Is Self-Care Important?
Jesus Himself knew self-care was an issue of great importance. That’s why He regularly took time out to refill His pitcher with Living Water. You need to do the same.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of dedicated Christ-followers who don’t seem to take Jesus’ example seriously. Some even believe that selfcare has no place in the Christian life. Discipleship, in their estimation, calls for the complete sacrifice of one’s own wants and needs. In their view, self-care is “selfish.”
So let’s compare self-care with selfishness.
|Aims at indulgence||Invests in self in order to re-invest in others|
|For me (only)||For me and then for others|
|At others’ expense||No serious negative impact on others|
See the difference? Selfishness is wrong; self-care is wise. There are at least five reasons to make self-care a priority for you and your family:
Self-care enables you to love. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself. Jesus told us so when He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; Leviticus 19:18). People who don’t love themselves have no way of gauging the meaning of love for others. They have no overflow from which to share.
Self-care maintains healthy bodies and minds. We belong to God, body and soul (1 Corinthians 6:19). As a result, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the physical and mental resources God has entrusted to our care. Self-care provides a buffer against illness and disease. The best defense is a good offense. A healthy immune system helps you ward off disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy body benefits extend to mood elevation and greater mental alertness, as well as reduced chronic disease risk. This is especially true for young children and teenagers.
Self-care provides stress relief. Stress, which is the great enemy of physical, mental, and emotional health, has a tendency to increase if you don’t keep your mind and body in good condition. According to Dr. Don Colbert, “If left unchecked, the perpetual release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol can sear the body in a way that is similar to acid searing metal.”
Self-care enables you to follow God’s commandments and do His work. In Ephesians 2:10 we’re told that the Lord has created us in Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The healthier you are, the more energy you will have to play your part in God’s plan.
- Don Colbert, Deadly Emotions, quoted by Gary Smalley in The DNA of Relationships (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), 104.