Self-care and the spiritual life
One of the fruits of the spiritual life is our spiritual health and its well-being. We are destined or wired by God to be healthy, active and alive. Even if we are to face or experience health challenges, the Lord has gone ahead of us to offer us an insurance policy by the assurances of His words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). There is a basic need that we are supposed to respect and apply for the good of our spiritual health but we have been neglecting over the years. It is called self-care and it has different dimensions. In all honesty, it is now neglected or trivialized and the effects of its negligence seems to have eaten deep into the fabric of our spiritual health system. The root of the problem is that we have misconstrued self-love.
Why do we allow our health to get to a point of ruin? It is simply because of “lack of self-love.” Some of us consciously and unconsciously have subscribed to a certain “theo-spiritual tradition” that says self-love is dangerous, bad and should be avoided at all cost. This theo-spiritual perspective argues that it is an act of selfishness to care for oneself and therefore, the needs of everyone else takes precedence over our own. So, we mistake self-indulgence for self-love.
Today’s readings and especially the gospel address the fact that self-love is not the same as self-indulgence. Jesus buttresses the fact that from time to time we need to withdraw from active work and find a place to rest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So, He says to His apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” This is called self-care. Self-care is a form of personal leadership that begins from within and it takes responsibility to look after oneself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It begins with the acknowledgement of the fact that I am responsible for my well-being.
There are numerous signs to show that we lack self-care as a result of lack of self-love. For instance, constant tiredness and fatigue, uncontrollable anger, poor sleep quality and pattern, and poor nutrition and dieting; others are anxieties and worries, constant flu, all work and no play, lack of self-observation, neglect of family and friends, emptiness, poor self-worth and insecurity.
Finally, a major danger against self-care is over-indulgence. That is taking too much of time to rest against the good of others. This is what Jesus pointed out in the second part of the gospel of Mark 6:30-34. Even while he had instructed His apostles to withdraw and rest but later the crowd kept pressing for help and they were like a sheep without a shepherd, He had to disrupt their rest in order to attend to the needs of the crowd by showing compassion. The saying goes thus, “too much of everything is bad.” This calls for moderation but not a complete neglect of self-care as we experience it today.
A lot of people are getting sick, grey headed, older than their chronological age and some have become completely traumatized and distressed because of lack of self-care.
Please get big at self-care and endeavour to identify what you need to take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Dear friend, “On your next flight, listen to the flight attendant. ‘Put the oxygen mask on your own mouth before you try to help anyone else’” (Sharma, 2013, p.214). You have to be alive before you can help others. Happy Sunday!