The Golden Rule of Self-Care: Cash
Some Christians believe that when Jesus said “deny yourself,” He meant to abandon all self-care. This can’t be the meaning behind this Scripture, because it doesn’t even make any sense if it were. How can I love people if I have no care for myself? If I don’t do at least minimal self-care, I will die.
I have a dear old friend who many consider the sweetest person they’ve ever known or may ever know. This dear woman has always been the type who will go to the ends of the earth to help people, and not just friends and family.
She is the person who will stop and have a conversation with mentally ill panhandlers on the street. It’s she who buys homeless folks Subway sandwiches.
She has been a caregiver to many in the past, even seeing folks through their final days on this earth with compassion and dignity. She’s the one who will work extra days on the job so her fellow employees might have some time off. She’s truly a fantastic person with a great attitude toward life.
She is a Christian woman. She knows the Scriptures well.
There is, however, something wrong with our caregiver friend. In the midst of being so kind and helpful to others, she sometimes forgets herself and her own needs. So it wasn’t altogether a surprise when she ended up in the emergency room of a local hospital complaining of chest pain and suffering from very high blood pressure.
She explained that she does not treat herself the way she treats others in caring and providing compassion and understanding. “I feel selfish if I care for me at the expense of caring for another,” she said recently.
We were surprised to hear her say this. After all, this woman is probably the least selfish person we’ve ever known. But when she said she feels selfish if she self-cares, I knew something had gone just a little off.
“Why would you feel selfish to care for yourself when you care for others so much?” I asked her. She explained that she’s beginning to realize there are deeper reasons sometimes for her altruistic attitude. She said she’d always been a people pleaser, that some of her good works have not always been strictly from love or a compassionate perspective.
Sometimes she did these good things because she was afraid not to. In her mind, she equated saying “no” to “I’m not a good person because I can’t or I don’t want to say yes to this particular request or need.”
Our friend eventually realized it’s important to set realistic boundaries: Here’s an example of setting a functional boundary: I won’t work on my days off just so other employees can have more time off than me. The object is to learn self-care by making our own needs just as important as everyone else’s.
The Golden Rule, as Jesus taught us, is Matthew 7:12 – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
I propose a mental health recovery rule: Treat yourself like you would want others to treat you also.
Imagine you saw a woman holding her child’s hand, scolding him. You can hear her as she berates him, calling him “stupid,” “untalented,” “mediocre” and other abusive things. Most all of us would say, “that woman is a tyrant and that poor child doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.”
But, in this illustration, that child is us. Sometimes we treat ourselves abusively, like the woman in the illustration.
How we chide and abuse ourselves because we don’t measure up to some arbitrary measurement society, the church, our parents or someone else has placed upon us.
This self-abuse is a hallmark of depression and other mental illnesses and can eventually lead to self-injury if not dealt with. We use the phrase, “beating ourselves up,” because that’s what depression can make us do.
Self-harm can manifest in little ways like not eating or not practicing regular personal hygiene. It could be as simple as neglecting something we know is good for us, such as getting enough sleep.
Depression causes us to be constantly pointing out our own flaws of character and morals, our imperfections and our blemishes, to ourselves and to others.
It can be a vicious cycle, the depression beating us up and our own self-abuse making us more depressed than ever.
That’s why good self-care is vital to mental health recovery. It’s one of the foundations for good mental health.