By: Meggie Nance
How to care for yourself without it being all about you
What comes to mind when you hear the term “self-care”? Do you begin to imagine
all the pampering that you would partake in if only you didn’t have _______ to do, or
____ amount of kids, or _____ dollars of financial debt, or, or, or? The list I’m sure could
go on and on with people, events, and things that get in the way of you beginning to even
be curious about caring for yourself. Or is self-care something that only the weak or selfcentered people do? Self-care can take on this connotation of luxuriously treating
yourself to the things of life that just make you “feel better”. While most self-care
measures do accomplish this temporal and short lived task, I believe that there’s a deeper
invitation in the process of caring for yourself that we would find not only benefits us
emotionally, but also relationally and spiritually.
More Than Just “Feeling Better”
It’s not hard to imagine that Christians would skeptically side-eye this whole concept
of self-care. I get it. We’re reminded time and time again in the Bible that we are
sojourners who are living in exile. This is not our home. Our eyes are set upon reaching
Heaven’s gates and meeting our maker, not about trying to live cozily in our perfectly
buffered lifestyles where the pains of life can’t reach us. HOWEVER… what if self-care
had a deeper purpose than just distracting us from the stressors of work, kids, tumultuous
relationships, financial woes, and honey-do lists?
More Than Distracting Ourselves
I remember first learning the term “self-care” in grad school. I thought it sounded so
out of place being emphatically spoken about at a seminary that was focused on serving
and caring for others. However, when you look at the statistics that study Compassion
Fatigue among those who are in ministry you quickly begin to realize that there is not a
better place to talk about self-care than at a seminary.
We can tend to think of self-care in terms of being able to escape from our reality.
Anything that will give me a break from having to face what I have to face on a daily
basis. This notion carried out repetitively could actually bleed into the category of
addiction. Addiction could be defined as the habitual turning away from our own reality
and re-creating a more pleasureful reality where we have the illusion of control. So selfcare
cannot simply be the turning away from reality, otherwise we’re headed down a
One day in our Addictions intensive one of my colleagues in my cohort asked our
professor a clarifying question regarding self-care. “How do we know if what we’re doing
is actually self-care or not?” Sharon Hersh succinctly answered my colleagues question
regarding self-care that day by stating that it all lies in the purpose of what you’re using to accomplish self-care for. The chief purpose of self-care is to offer a place to be
rejuvenated and restored so that…
Where Self-Care Becomes Oriented Toward Others
So is self-care just about feeling good, energized and whole? By no means! Self-care
is not the ends of our means, but rather it is the means to the end. So then, what is the
end that we’re aiming for in attempts to care well for ourselves? The Westminster Shorter
Catechism speaks explicitly to our ends as image bearers. “Q1: What is the chief end of
man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”
We’re not just called to receive. No. Rather, we’re brought in, loved, cared for and
redeemed. THEN we’re told to go (Matthew 28:19) and bear His image to others for the
purposes of glorifying Him.
The purpose of self-care is to retreat so that we can be fed, nurtured and properly
empowered so that we can return to the front lines and fight the good fight by loving
others well. Loving others just as well as we love God AND ourselves. Matthew 22:37-39
speaks to the dynamic of being in relationship with God, others and yourself. “You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.” (ESV). It is in light of the Gospel and with the appropriate end in
mind, that we quickly realize that self-care actually becomes extremely God and other
So what’s getting in the way of you nurturing yourself- pride, time management,
over prioritizing good things instead of the best things? The scriptures sing about God’s
delight in us as His Image Bearers. Are you able to treat yourself with compassion and
dignity in the same way that Christ treats you? What are the ways that we’re hindering
and inhibiting reflecting God’s glory because we refuse to care for ourselves?