Following Jesus means you put yourself second. But that does not mean you stop taking care of yourself. Quite the opposite! If you live your life saying, “I am Second,” then you will also need to say, “I have to do this for me.” The most generous people know how to care for themselves. If you don’t, you will experience burnout.
You have to have something to give something.
There are many ways to give, but all of them require some kind of resource. For example, do you want to give more of your time to something? You will then need to manage your schedule more carefully in order to find that time. Do you want to give money to something you care deeply about? Even less tangible things, like a sense of peace, can only be shared with others if you have first invested in your own inner peace. You can’t give what you don’t have. So invest in caring for yourself so that you have more to give.
You’re human and have limits.
The human body has limits. If you do not sleep, eat or take care of your physical needs, then you will find yourself with a short temper and a cranky personality. No amount of “inner peace” is going to get rid of all your hangry-ness. Sometimes you will just need to stop and get some food or a good night’s sleep. Even if you wish you could give, give, give and go, go, go, God made you to be a finite being with limits. Recognize those limits and you will be happier and better positioned for generosity.
Overwhelmed means you will under-deliver.
Resist the temptation of saying “yes” to everything. The world is full of needs and you cannot possibly meet all of them. That means “no” needs to enter your vocabulary. Agreeing to do something you don’t have the time, resources or energy to do does not make you a better person. It just makes you a person who drops balls, fails to keep commitments and under-delivers. That’s not selfless, and that’s not helpful.
Self-care is preventative care.
People who fail to care for themselves end up in big trouble later on. For example, parents can spend so much time caring for their children that they neglect their marriage. But those who do this find they don’t know the person they are living with when the kids go off to college. Great parents can then find they were terrible life partners and be staring down divorce. People can do the same in other areas of life. Make sure you take the time to meet your own needs, or you will end up wishing you did years from now.
It’s good for the heart.
Selfish people are in it for themselves. They might give, but only so others can see them give. They might help others, but only so everyone can be amazed at their goodness. On the contrary, people who care for themselves do things because they genuinely care for others. Their giving will correspond to their ability and resources. They will seek to make an impact, not for the headlines but for people.
If you take care of yourself, you will be better positioned to live Second. Care for the needs and concerns of others, but do not neglect your own.