Someone recently published a little poll, asking people what they thought about the words “self-care.” I think this is a dangerous word in our world today. While we certainly need to take care of ourselves, far too often, I think we are quick as a society to justify comfort and luxury items in the name of “self-care.”
What does it mean then to take care of ourselves? In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reminds us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
But what does this even mean if we don’t have self-respect and if we don’t have an understanding of our own self-worth? If we don’t love ourselves or respect ourselves first, then it isn’t asking very much of us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, is it?
We have to understand our worth and our dignity before we can help others to see their own worth and dignity. We have to treat ourselves with kindness and mercy first.
In other words, we can’t give from what we don’t have in the first place. It’s like the old analogy that in an airplane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else with their mask. Otherwise, you’re going down. And you’re certainly not going to be breathing well enough to help others.
Now, if you know me well, you probably know that I’m pretty hard on myself. From this, flows the fact that I can be pretty hard on others, too. Guys, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It’s just a matter of fact. So, we have to be patient with ourselves and with each other. We have to pray for ourselves and for each other.
Here are a few little reminders that have been on my heart. These are little ways that I often forget to be kind and merciful to myself. I’m sharing them here just in case someone else can benefit from this little reminder tonight. And also so I can refer back to this as needed in the future. You can call it spiritual self-care, you can call it kindness and mercy – call it whatever you’d like. But remember… (ahem… I’m talking to you, Kaitlyn Clare Mason…)
- Don’t forget to pray for yourself. You need grace, and you need to grow in virtue. So don’t forget to ask for help with this continually.
- When you mess up, forgive yourself. Don’t withhold forgiveness from yourself. It just gives the devil a foothold, and it’s not going to do you any favors. Give yourself space to make mistakes. Then, when you do, forgive yourself, (go to Confession if you’ve really messed up), and then just move on. Otherwise, this is what you’re doing to yourself…
- Allow yourself every possible opportunity to read Scripture, to pray the rosary, to visit the sacraments. Remember the words of the great Father Kauth, that “you are never shirking your motherhood responsibilities by taking your children to Mass.” Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t get to all of this every day, but make a sincere effort to stay close to the Word of God every day – in all the ways you can.
- Be patient with yourself. Remember that you are learning how to be kind and merciful. You’re not at the finish line. You’re only at mile-marker 32. Stay strong. Stay in the race. Be patient. Pace yourself.
- Don’t look back, keep your eyes fixed on Christ. Remember that looking back didn’t work out very well for Lot’s wife. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26). Eyes fixed on Christ!
God loves you and He is Merciful! So love yourself and be merciful to yourself! And then pass it on…