Part of the Healthy Individuals Make Healthy Couples Series
Self-care is the acceptance of personal responsibility leading toward getting filled mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. It begins with recognizing the truth about who you are — your identity and value in God. The ultimate goal of personal care is the fulfillment of the greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (an act of giving and receiving, and the ultimate act of self-love), and love your neighbor in the same way you now love yourself (Luke 10:27). This process enables you to become and remain a full vessel, and then to give from your abundance. Self-care is about wholeness.
We are called to love the Lord with our whole being, but since love comes only from God, we must first be filled with His love. "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). As we allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love, the essence of life, we are truly loving ourselves. Once we are filled with His love, loving Him and others becomes a natural outflow.
This pattern of receiving and giving, receiving and giving is the foundation of how God created the world to operate, and thus all human life is based on this.
We run into significant relational problems when we look to other people, rather than God, to be the source of our fulfillment. A healthy, sustainable relationship is one in which two people look to God as their source of fulfillment, actually get full, and then share the blessings with each other and the world.
Taking good care of yourself is always in the best interest of all parties involved, because you can’t give what you don’t have. Receiving and giving are both integral parts of good personal care. If you receive and don’t give, what you are hoarding becomes stale and useless. If you give and don’t receive, you eventually become empty. Excellent self-care, then, requires finding a healthy balance between giving and receiving. Personal care involves the heart-spirit-mind-body connection:
• Mental self-care involves reading books, being involved in mentally stimulating conversations and listening to teaching or preaching that challenges your thinking.
• Physical self-care involves exercising, healthy eating, getting enough sleep and taking time to relax.
• Spiritual self-care involves communion with God, reading the Bible, praying, worshiping, reading Christian books and having conversations related to your faith with other believers.
• Emotional self-care involves allowing God to love and encourage you, loving yourself, attending to your emotional desires with care and compassion and speaking to yourself with kindness.
People often avoid personal care because they think it is being selfish. In fact, the opposite is true. The fuller you are, the more you have to give. The more you have to give, the more you are able to serve God and others. There is nothing selfish about that. Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). His desire is for our hearts to be full so that when we give, our love is coming out of the abundance of our hearts instead of from a diminishing reservoir.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family. Robert S. Paul is vice president of Hope Restored. Together, they wrote The DNA of Relationships for Couples.