After reading a recently popular book billed as Christian, and then reading the mixed reviews on social media, major review sites, and in very angry Instastories, I have to wonder…Is self care really selfishness wrapped up in love? When does loving yourself become selfish?
What the Bible Says
A popular scripture about marriage is found in Ephesians 5:28
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies;
he who loves his wife loves himself.
This along with the rest of Ephesians 5 is packed with great ideals of love, but the verses after are filled with scriptures on nothing other than self-love:
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,
just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body,
of His flesh and of His bones.
What the World Says
When a person is proud of their body and it’s too big or small, people judge. The only acceptable time to be proud of your body is when you suffer from an eating disorder and you’re gaining healthy weight, or when you’ve been overweight and you’re losing healthily. Once you’re in a healthy weight and “toning” or trying to get fit for a vacation, you’re selfish, proud. If you’re getting healthy to compete and excel in a sport, you’re selfish. If you look in the mirror too long at the gym, take too many selfies for social media, wear too nice clothes, you will be judged as selfish, proud, and too eager.
Likewise, when you’re looking for success in a job, you get the same response from Christians. If you have a good job with decent pay, but look for more, you’re deemed money hungry, discontent, or even selfish.
Perception is Not Reality
If an athlete trains daily—even in the off-season—no one bats an eye. If a preacher wakes up to daily study and prayer, no one considers it odd. If a stay-at-home-mom wakes up an hour before the kids to work from home, to grow a business, to work out, or write a book, she’s not “happy”. What about the bubble baths, chocolates, and spending money for girl’s nights out? Family vacations! How can Christians plan and pay for a family vacation when the church budget is low? When there are needy families in the congregation? Isn’t this why we keep our self care in the closet? Like so many things that we hold dear, so many facets to our personality, we hide and keep it in afraid of how we’ll be perceived, how we’ll be judged.
The Heart of the Matter
The Bible says “love your neighbor as yourself”, it says we nourish and cherish our bodies like Jesus does the church. These words, “nourish” and “cherish” are the same used in Greek to describe a nursing mother tenderly caring for an infant. It’s the same word used to describe bringing up to maturity—raising.
This text specifically describes reaching for our best self. Why, why do we as Christians, as parents, family, or friends, encourage others (specifically those in our circle, but especially our children) to always reach for more, but then avoid giving ourselves the same push?
I had dreams as a young girl. I had dreams before I got married. I still do. Just this week is the first time I’ve actually described them to my husband as something that I want.
Why did it take ten years? Technically I’ve had the same aspirations and dreams for longer than I’ve known him. I’ve never believed I could achieve them until now.
Did I believe in God ten years ago? Yes!
Did I believe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Yes!
Did I put off my dreams and aspirations because I thought doing something for me instead of doing something for Him was unchristian? Yes.
Can a Christian be a success in business, sports, politics, the arts, finances, and life, and still be Christian—even glorify God in the process? Yes.
So my question for you is this: What are you waiting for? You’re probably waiting for the same thing I was for so long—permission.
You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to be the best you possible.