Our team at Converge Coaching talks a ton about self-care. It’s become second nature to us. And yet occasionally, we still encounter some leaders who think self-care is nothing more than a dressed-up word for selfishness.

A while back one of our clients asked me, “what about Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him?” That’s a legit question.

I responded back with this: “Denying yourself in this context has to do with obedience and following, even when it’s hard or confusing. It has to do with Jesus being the boss of your life. It has nothing to do with denying the limitations He created you (and all of us) with.”

So, I thought it would be good to write about this subject because one, I think it’s always good to revisit it, and two, maybe some of you are wrestling with the same question posed by our client.

Three things to know about self-care:

1. Self-care is not selfishness . . . selfishness is not self-care

In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let me call your attention to the word “as” in verse 39. It’s the Greek connector word “ws” – omega, sigma – and it means “in the same manner as.”  The most important command in the Bible is really a 3-parter: It commands us to love God and to love our neighbor, but Jesus also commands us to love ourselves.

The Apostle Paul helps us here. Let me set the scene for you: In Acts 20 he was saying farewell to a group of Ephesian leaders. He would never see them again, and in this emotional moment he urged them in verse 28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” The phrase “Keep watch” comes from a single Greek word that means “to attend to, to pay attention to, to devote thought and effort to.” We are instructed to pay attention to ourselves and others. To devote thought and effort to ourselves and others—at the same time.

Selfishness emerges when we believe the entire universe revolves around us. When our predominant thought is always about our wants and needs and hardly ever about another person’s wants or needs. Self-care happens when we intentionally nourish ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. Spending time with God, with friends who feed our soul, getting enough exercise and sleep, etc. We cannot give to others what we do not have. Genuine, authentic self-care is not selfish. And being self-centered is not healthy self-care.

2. Self-care is not either/or . . . it’s both/and.

The apostle Paul helps us again in Philippians 2:4: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Pay attention to the words “not only” and “also to.” Self-care yourself means caring about others while at the same time caring for yourself. It’s not an either/or proposition—it’s both/and. As a matter of fact, your capacity to love your spouse, your kids, your neighbor, your workmates, even your enemies, is directly related to the approach you take to care for yourself!

3. Self-care is about longevity and sustainability

Let me ask you some pointed questions here:

  • How does it honor God if you burn out?
  • How can you truly be of help to others if you’re drowning under the waves of major depression?
  • How can you counsel others when you’re so fatigued you can’t even make your own decisions?

God has called us to a marathon, not a sprint. And marathoners run at a different pace than sprinters. Healthy, biblical self-care dramatically improves our chances of finishing our God-given race.

Some have confused self-care with getting everything I want. It’s more about getting everything I need. Getting what I need in order to fulfill God’s purpose in my life. Getting and staying healthy so I can be a genuine help and blessing to those who cross my path every day. Leading and serving others from a full tank.

Working on your walk with God, nourishing those relationships that fill your bucket, taking care of your body, and processing the mental and emotional part of your life with a close friend, a coach, a mentor, or a counselor—these pursuits are not selfish. They create the conditions for longevity, for sustained fruitfulness . . . and for more joy on your journey.

Rooting and praying for you,