Before my hiatus, we started looking at God’s love for us and noted that if God loves us, we are allowed to love ourselves. In fact, we noted from Matthew 22:39, that God didn’t command us to do this, He simply expected it. Let’s pick back up on that series of learning how to properly love ourselves, so we may love others properly.
Be Kind to Yourself
I Corinthians 13:4-7 has been our guide for this journey. We’ve already learned about being patient with ourselves, Paul then says love is kind. If we are allowed to love ourselves, then we are allowed to be kind to ourselves.
This sounds odd to us. “Be kind to myself,” we think, “I’m always kind to myself.” Really? If you talked to others the way you talk to yourself, would anyone mistake your treatment for kindness? What about when you make a mistake? Do you call yourself names? “You idiot.” “Only a moron would make that mistake.” “You’re such a failure.” “No wonder you’re such a screw-up.” When you go to someone for help or to ask a question, do you lay the foundation of your own inadequacy? “I know this is probably just because I’m stupid, but could you help me with…” “I’m sure you’ll think I’m a loser, but I don’t understand…” When you look in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? “You fat, ugly slob.” “Who would ever be attracted to you with your bald head?” “You are so pathetic.”
If you are saying these things to yourself, I’m sure you think you are just being honest. You think you are just keeping your head in reality. But if you talked to anyone else like this, you would be shunned as unkind. You are allowed to be kind to yourself. You are allowed to say nice things to yourself. In fact, you should make a habit of it. The fact is, if you call yourself pathetic and ugly every time you look in the mirror, you’ll start to walk that way, talk that way, act that way. People will think you are because they sense it coming from your every pore.
Say nice things to yourself. “You’re beautiful.” “You’re nice.” “Your hair looks good today.” “Those clothes look nice on you.” “You’re a success.” Not in a pompous, conceited, self-centered way. Not in the “You’re the hottest thing on the block” sort of way. Simply in a loving yourself way. If you can’t bring yourself to say these kinds of things because you keep telling yourself you are lying to yourself, then why not try saying, “God loves you just the way you are.” “God loves you so much just the way you are that He sent Jesus to die for you.” Those statements are true. You are allowed to say them and remind yourself.
Take Care of Yourself
Do you remember what the stewardess said to you on your last flight? While she was demonstrating all the equipment and you were hardly paying attention she talked about the cabin pressure. If something breached that pressure, an oxygen mask would fall out of the ceiling. What did she tell you to do before you helped your child sitting next to you? She said to put your mask on yourself first. What a shocking display of self-centered selfishness. And yet, we need to follow that advice. Why? Because if we don’t quickly put our mask on first, we may pass out before we are able to help the person next to us. There really is a time to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else.
I’m not advocating looking out for number 1 because if you don’t no one else will. However, we do need to understand that killing ourselves in the service of others is not what God wants of us. He wants us to serve in such a way that we can keep serving for days and years to come. (Yes, I understand there is a time for the ultimate sacrifice and martyrdom but let’s understand that doesn’t have to happen every day.) Too many people are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs of service. Yes, serve your children, your family, your friends, your brethren, but don’t do it in such a way that you end up in the hospital because you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Yes, you need to serve your children. But moms, its okay to let your children know that Mommy has to eat something before she turns into a hypoclycemic bear. “Kids, you’ll just have to wait while Mommy takes care of herself so she can then properly take care of you.” Yes, you need to serve your neighbors. But if your body is worn out, you need to take time to rest. You are allowed to tell someone, “No, I just can’t help you with that right now. I need some time to recharge. I’ll be able to help you at such and such a time.” Yes you need to do that work for the congregation in the Bible classes. But if your own spiritual batteries are low it is okay to let someone know, “I’ve got to have some time to connect with God myself and let Him restore my soul.” When you need some time with just you and God, take it.
I don’t know what sins you struggle with, but there are four times when you are made extremely vulnerable to fall into them. Remember the acronym H.A.L.T. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. When you find yourself in one of these situations, you are walking on thin ice. It is time to take care of yourself. Consider what you need to overcome these scenarios. If you just keep pushing yourself to take care of others, you’re going to fall into sin. God hasn’t asked you to serve your way in to sin.
I know you are reading this with skepticism. This just doesn’t seem right to us. We have been so taught about self-sacrifice and service that this seems anathema. However, this is such a proper principle that even Jesus exemplified it. Yes, the very Jesus who did let Himself get killed in our service, understood that there is a time to take care of ourselves.
In Matthew 14:22, Jesus dismissed the crowds and then put the disciples on a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. In Matthew 14:23, the text says He was alone when evening came. He was taking some alone time with His Father. He was recharging His spiritual batteries. He was finally doing what He had come to do but had put off because of the crowds. Yes, He did sacrifice to serve, but when evening came, He took care of Himself first. Evening is around sundown. The disciples were already in their boat on their way at that time. But they were having trouble. The winds were keeping them from getting anywhere. No doubt they were tired, they were struggling, they were weary, they were scared. What did Jesus do? He kept on praying. Don’t forget this is Jesus, God in the flesh, He knew what was going on out there. But what did He do? He kept on praying alone with the Father.
Not until the fourth watch of the night (Matthew 14:25) did Jesus come to their aid. The fourth watch is from 3 am to 6 am. They had been struggling since before evening the previous day. Jesus didn’t come to their aid for hours. Why? Because even Jesus needed to take care of Himself. He needed to have time with the Father if He would be of any service to anyone else.
We Can’t Give What We Don’t Have
If we don’t take care of ourselves, then we won’t have anything to give in service to others. You are allowed to be kind to yourself. Otherwise, you won’t really have any kindness to give to others. Trust me, what you think is being a sacrificing servant will end up simply being manipulative martyrdom. It will backfire in the end.
Take time to take care of yourself, to be kind to yourself, to love yourself. Then you will have the strength you need from God to love others as He has commanded.