With Valentine’s Day just behind us, and Lent around the corner, I find myself still trying to recover from the hustle and bustle and excitement of Christmas. I’ve had many people ask me: What will you give up this year for Lent? Last year, I gave up soda pop for 40 days and 40 nights and I thought I was going to go into convulsions — I missed it so much. I also began to think, how may I use the next 40 days and 40 nights to focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God?
In places of Christian worship around the world, we will be encouraged to use this time for self-reflection. This year, I don’t think I will be sacrificing something for Lent, but I will take this opportunity to remind myself that I deserve to be loved not only by other people, but by myself. The Golden Rule is to “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
I began to think, how can I love my neighbor if I’m tired? I’ve read in plenty of pastoral care books, heard from many others, and have learned overtime that loving yourself can lay a foundation for stronger, healthy relationships with others. This process begins with accepting yourself for who you are right now in your life. If you are not filled, by providing yourself with great self-care and love, how can you provide service and love to others?
There’s been a long-held belief that people are worthy of respect when they put others before themselves. People have often evaluated their own worth (and the degree to which they deserve value in society) by their ability to contribute and place the needs of others before themselves … and this is what we are passionate about doing in ministry.
Along with this belief is the idea that self-care is self-indulgent. However, we can only sustain physical health and emotional health when self-care is a priority. When your needs are met, and self-care is a non-negotiable priority, you can come to the world as the best version of yourself; fully nourished and ready to nourish those around you.
Caring for yourself is vitally important, but many of us neglect ourselves for a variety of reasons. As pastors or lay-people, we are continuing to give care to others around the clock — whether it is tending to someone who is sick, or listening to someone’s problems, or trying to create a social justice movement, or in back-to-back-to-back church meetings.
So, my challenge to you during your Lenten journey, consider doing something kind for yourself, even if it’s small. That could mean cooking a healthy meal, reading a good book for leisure (10 minutes a day), taking a class you’re interested in, going for a daily walk, developing a gratitude practice, or just sitting quietly for a few minutes. Self-care is about what works best for you. And if you don’t know what works best for you, it’s even more essential to take time out for yourself to discover that. How have you filled your cup today? Have you cared for yourself so you have the energy to care for others today? I continue to remember what my Grandmother would tell me as a teenager, “Everything is good in moderation.” Regardless of your situation, you deserve to be cared for, and you have the power to be your own caregiver. There are tons of ways to practice self-care, and sometimes it only takes a few minutes of your day to make a big difference in your life.