As someone in the counseling field, I have seen how important it is for people to have an appropriate level of self-care. We must accept the fact as human beings, we are limited creatures. Even the most driven, successful, Type-A personality will eventually burn out if they do not take time to refuel their interior self. We require time for rest and connection; it is written in our very nature.
Most of the time, when we hear the phrase “self-care”, it is highlighting needs pointing to the mind, will, or emotions. As followers of Christ, we believe there are God-ordained means to have many of our needs met. Means such as prayer, reading Scripture, biblical community, serving, and personal solitude. Christians have a high value on self-acceptance as we are called to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). In addition, it is important for us to encourage others toward a proper view of self as daughters and sons of God through the “spirit of adoption” we have through Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (Romans 8:15-17). Finally, we see self-care modeled in Jesus’ example when he withdrew from the crowds for solitude (Luke 5:16).
There are many creative ways we can take time for our own formation, both individually or with a group of others. We could begin a new a hobby, read an in-depth book, try a different sport, travel to distant places, or spend more time outdoors. Advertising executives market their entire strategies around the human desire to find deeper satisfaction. We are looking for something that will meet our cravings; more knowledge, deeper experiences, a better life.
However, over the last few years, it could be argued that the culture around us caters to the practice of self-obsession rather than healthy self-care. In a society focusing so much of its time on selfies, knowing yourself, loving yourself, and being true to self, we spend less time and energy looking to the needs of others, knowing the Holy Spirit, loving truth, and being true to the Word of God. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves swept up in the chaos. We can become self-indulgent on the self.
Our natural human tendency is to always look for more. More money. More influence. More respect. More acceptance. More attention. Yet, as the body of Christ, we know that the ultimate fulfillment of self can only be found in a life connected to our Heavenly Father. It is a constant tug of war for the soul, yet as Andy Stanley says, “the tension is good.”
This tension is felt in the human heart. And the motivations of our heart will dictate the paths we take in life. Does our heart look up to God and out to others? Or do we only look within ourselves? When we only aim to appease our own desires, the human soul can become ugly. Therefore, it is essential that followers of Jesus Christ remember to put self in its proper place. We must acknowledge that we do not have license to do whatever pleases self, for we have been purchased by Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
A pastor recently proposed two questions before his congregation: “What is the most dignifying attribute to being a human being?” and “Who has the final say in the matters of my life?” Until a person sees themselves as the created image of a loving God, their self-pursuits will never be quite enough. And without humility before God, the self becomes the only authority in a person’s life.
A wise person once said, “Satan does not want to be ruler of your life; he wants you to be ruler of your life.” This is a dangerous reality. And in the era of “self-made” people, it is important to never lose focus the One who first made us. He delights in His creation and knows our need better than we do. May we never be too prideful to trust His leadership over that of the self.