Monday, August 27, 2018

Self-Care vs. Self-Sacrifice

In navigating the line between two competing philosophies, God spoke a solution to my mind and heart that I finally feel comfortable embracing. What are the two philosophies?

The first is the idea of “self-care.” The second is the idea of self-sacrifice.

Memes, video clips and blogs fill my news feed regularly with praise for SELF-CARE!
You can’t give anything when you are empty!” “Take time to pamper yourself! Manicures, rest, girls’ nights, vacations away – whatever you need, take it! You’re worth it! You need it!”“Don’t do anything unless it’s what YOU want to do.”YOU are enough, just the way you are.”

The notion that unless your needs were fully met, you were unable to give anything of value (or that you shouldn’t try to) felt off to me. On the other hand, I saw a video where a Christian woman condemned the notion of self-care as simply a euphemism for selfishness. That was more appealing to me, I will admit, but the starkness in the declaration felt off, too.

I can think of several examples of where self care – including from the Savior’s own life – were overridden by Self-sacrifice. For Christ, rest was not more important than tending to a crowd who sought him. It wasn’t more important than the staggering impossibility of a task at hand. Or even of life itself. Truly, if Christ taught us anything it was that we should sacrifice ourselves fully to God’s will – and in doing so, we would find ourselves.

SELF-SACRIFICEnot self-care. THAT is the true Christian principle.

That idea has been staggering to me at times, too, though. My deepest desire is to live my life in a way that it is dedicated to God and His purposes as much as possible. I want so much to be a useful tool in His hands.

Do I want this because I think I can save myself by doing so? Absolutely not! My Savior has already done that for me. I don’t sacrifice my own desires to EARN heaven, I do it to LEARN heaven – as Brad Wilcox so beautifully explained in his talk, “His Grace is Sufficient.”

The Book of Mormon, especially, is full of beautiful scriptures on grace like this one in Mosiah 2:21:

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another–I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

I am mortal and I am weak. Even on my best days, I still fall short of what I would love to give back to God. Guys, I know despite my desire to be a useful help to God, He has given me everything that I could ever even fathom giving back to Him. I can’t repay Him. It is impossible. But I love Him and I want to serve Him.

But here’s the rub where that whole self-care deal comes into play and starts to feel pretty appealing.

As I already explained, I am weak. I am mortal. My capacity for serving God with my whole soul varies from moment to moment. And sometimes I say yes to things, because I feel like I “should.” Saying yes is always the right thing to do, right? Right?! I have this image in my mind of the Savior giving every part of Himself for the benefit of others. I want to do that, too! I will admit I have at times said “Yes, I’ll do that,” with reluctance in my heart. I have “served” (and that is in quotes) while feeling angry, annoyed, and maybe even a little bitter about it. Certainly overwhelmed, oh I’ve felt that, too. I have accepted a request to serve and then begrudged my situation. Then I felt shame for my failure, for my bad attitude. Then I dream about crawling into my bed and sleeping for a month, and only coming up from the abyss for a few bars of dark chocolate!

I know I’m not alone in this. I have so many friends who have struggled to say “no” in the name of trying desperately to live a Christ-like life.

Certainly the adversary would like us to focus on ourselves and our own needs above the needs of all others. And if he can’t get us that way, he’d like us to feel shame for our inability to perfectly self-sacrifice. Either way, his goal is to get us to take our eyes off the Savior.

Where is the balance between selfishness and complete self-sacrifice?

God recently gave me the answer to this debacle as I was counseling with a friend about some family drama she was experiencing and how she might best handle the situation. I didn’t know the answer to her query. But the Spirit whispered in my mind, “Give to your limits of graciousness.”

Give to your limits of graciousness.

Give to your limits of graciousness.

The scriptures tell us that if a person gives a gift grudgingly, it is “counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift.” (Moroni 7:8)

The Bible talks about this as well:

2 Corinthians 7:9 it says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

The point where you feel begrudging of any service you are offering, THAT is your limit. Draw a line in the sand. By all means, make sure that line is in sand and not concrete. Each time you find yourself at that line, you can pray for God to give you the desire to consecrate yourself further and to expand your limits of graciousness. Sometimes that very act will reveal a real boundary that needs to be set and kept with another person for safety or other reasons. Other times He will show you how you can give more. You can ask for the specific things you need to increase your capacity to expand those limits. If you feel that you are at your limits, you can ask God, “Father, is my offering sufficient?” That place, at the edge of your capacity, that is the sweet place to be.

Give to your limits of graciousness, and by the grace of Christ, that is enough. He is the one who gives us the capacity for graciousness in the first place.

What do you think about self-care? Self-sacrifice? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for taking the time to read today.

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