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BLOG: Is Self-Care What We Think It Is?

Self-care, or self-love (depending on the buzzword you prefer) is a perfect example of how we take a Biblical concept and pervert it with our humanistic ideas. Even in the Christian realm, though it’s a curious contradiction, to be sure.

Because while we like to think self-love is eating chocolate or ordering yet another pair of shoes, the reality is that those things are simply indulgences. And if there's one thing most of us are already pretty good at, it's indulging ourselves.

Scripture tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves which would be a pretty good indication God isn't opposed to us being kind to ourselves. But that kindness will look a whole lot more like self-control and discipline than we might want to think.

Consider for a moment, the alcoholic. She lives for her next drink, thinking and planning to make sure she gets it. She spends money, oftentimes money she doesn't really have, in order to feed her addiction. The drinking accelerates aging, stripping her of natural vigor and beauty, while making it more and more difficult for her to find joy in life outside of that which her next buzz will bring. Friendships break down, weight is gained, sleep is lost, work suffers, and her family falls apart.

Does the fact that she thinks she loves drinking so much mean she's loving herself by continuing to drink? Obviously not, and most of us can see that clearly, with no dispute. However, we live our lives in much the same way.

What starts as an indulgence, as an act of "love" toward ourselves, very quickly becomes a destructive habit. And the more we feel those desires for indulgence, the harder it is for us to deny ourselves. But because a chocolate addiction, or an addiction to the latest Netflix series, is more socially acceptable (Christian or otherwise), we don't sense our own danger.

The most loving thing an alcoholic can do is to deny herself that next drink. And the next one. And the next, until she establishes a habit of denying herself the very thing that is destroying her. Her newfound, hard-fought for sobriety will bring about a slowing of the aging process, lines in her face with relax, and she'll become familiar with the joy that flows from engaging in life with people. As a result, she'll likely experience a return in desire to eat healthier and to exercise, causing weight to be dropped. Her sleep will improve and her efficiency in all areas of responsibility will reach new heights. Sometimes, she'll even be able to piece together the fragments of the family she allowed to be fractured as she indulged in the self-love our society teaches us is so necessary.

But what about us? What about those of us who aren't trapped in a spiral of easy-to-detect addiction to self? What if it's simply that we prefer to complain about our problems rather than addressing them with necessary changes to our habits? What if we've just settled into a complacent acceptance of who we are and what we aren't?

In that case, like it or not, self-love is holding ourselves accountable. It's getting in the kitchen, making a menu, shopping for the ingredients, and then preparing the meals so we stop grabbing junk on our way home. It's feeding our children nutrients, rather than convenience, so we see a change in their health AND their behavior.

It's tying on our sneakers to get out into the fresh air, year round, for a walk or a run. It's risking getting a little sweaty to pump blood and oxygen through our previously stagnating systems. It's challenging our muscles to do more than flex while we open the fridge or flop onto the couch.

It's learning we don't need the latest and greatest of everything. Or maybe even of anything. It's being content with less and putting our investment in people more. It's recognizing Jesus warns us not to store up our treasure on earth and focusing on what we have the opportunity to take with us to heaven which is, again, people.

It's respecting ourselves enough not to need to parade for attention. It's wearing clothing that attracts people to our heart rather than to our body. It's being happy with the best version of ourself, that God knows we can be, instead of relentlessly pursuing the status quo. The world is a liar and will stop at nothing to keep us in the quicksand of seeking the approval of others.

Because self-care isn't always lovely. It's not always peaceful evenings spent in a bubble bath or locked away with fuzzy slippers and total quiet. Most of the time it just looks like hard work and determination, plain and simple.

The best place to start ... actually, the only place to start if you're seeking after Christ ... is by disciplining yourself to nuture that relationship with Him. It's reading the Bible, whether you feel like it or not. And it's continuing to do so whether you enjoy it or not. Because a habit repeated over time becomes the thing your body and mind will start to struggle to live without. If you continue to read your Bible as a discipline, you WILL come to the place where you'll crave reading it more. When you pray, even though it seems nobody is listening, you WILL come to the place where there's no fulfillment in talking to anyone like there is in talking to Him.

But you have to go after it. You can't wish for it or hope for it or complain because you don't have it. You have to go get it.

And the getting of it is the most loving act you could ever possibly show yourself. It'll lead to all the other things falling right into place.

Because that's how well God knows how to love us.



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