I’d like to introduce to you, my pastor, John K. McGhee, Ed.D., Ed.S., M.S.P.H.
We met about ten years ago in Boston, and worshiped together there for no more than a couple of months. In contrast to how quickly I chose him, I’ve been very slow about letting him go. He lives around the globe, talking about health, Love, God and individuals. He has been and continues to be an important presence in my life and although I sit in other churches, he’s my pastor. May God continue to bless him, his family and his work.
Guest post by Dr. John Kenneth McGhee.
Dr. Sana’s blog is persuasive, and possibly life-changing. However there may be some spiritually inclined conservative Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants who may be uncomfortable with her emphasis on self-care as a vital first-step to healthy interactions. Isn’t it quite selfish and rather ungodly to focus on self-care? Don’t the great monotheistic faiths teach that people achieve their greatest potential when they unselfishly focus on serving others?
I wonder what God thinks about self-care? Probably it is impossible to know with certainty. Who can know God’s thoughts?
However, one can find ample evidence from the Holy Books to support a few principles about self-care.
1. Self-care is promoted in the Torah. Genesis 1:28 – 2:3 clearly identifies that God told Adam and Eve to have plenty of sex, and babies; eat nutritious food; and enjoy a delightful weekly rest.
2. Self-care is promoted in the New Testament. 3 John 2 clearly identifies a principle stated by the human being who was one of Dr. Jesus Christ’s closest friends. “Beloved I wish above all that you would prosper and be in health.” Here we recognize God’s concern with finance and health care on a very personal level. The language implies that there is a direct action involved by God’s friends that they would become financially viable and do what it takes to remain in good health.
3. Perhaps the most concentrated teaching on self-care is given by Paul who mentored Timothy so effectively. In I Timothy 4: 7 – 16, I find the following direct commands:
- Train yourself in godliness – this requires time to read, time to pray, time to think, time to do acts of kindness;
- Don’t let anyone put you down because you are a young teacher – this requires time to nourish a healthy ego, time to know who you are, time to build character;
- Do not neglect the gift(s) you have received – this requires time to write; time to develop musical or other artistic talents, time to share gifts with others in a faith fellowship community;
- And finally Paul counsels Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself.”
Questions: What conflicts do you have in becoming your own friend with your religious beliefs? Is religion a barrier to you being friendly to you? Or, how has it been otherwise? Please tell us your story.
Self-Care Tip: Be aware of barriers to friendship with yourself, even religion.
I was raised in a staunch patriarchical home where the beliefs were that God (in my parents belief) is intolerant of anyone outside “the religion.” My siblings and I were reminded constantly that that if anything went well in life, it was all due to God’s favor and if anything went wrong, it was all our doing, and vanity (or self-love ahead of love of neighbor) was the “work of the devil.”
Fortunately we can grow up to believe what is our truth and for me, it is that self-love is the greatest of all love (and maybe the only true love.) While it might seem selfish to some, it is survival for those of us who spent our lives taking care of others first and ending up too tired to care for ourselves.
Now at mid-age, I realize that even without good self care, I raised two great adult children, finally woke up to realize I was married to a narcissist (after way too long), and now it is finally my turn to love me first and foremost. I finally know that there is great self-care and self-love, and I am growing increasingly confident that self-love can be the best (and maybe only) love I can anticipate or expect for the second half of life.
Yes, I believe religion can get in the way – but only if you allow it to stifle your life and good self-care.
Carol, Thank you for your response. So glad you are choosing a belief system which recognizes that God exalts the value of human beings by choosing to live in them. Your body is the temple of God.
By taking good care of your self, you are loving God. And, yes, you are correct that such self-love is the best kind of love, especially down the stretch in the 2nd half of life.
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If your body is the temple of God treat it so physically and spiritually. Now clean and sober over 10 years I will give up the ghost leaving a body which was no longer contaminated by drugs and alcohol. I think of the body as God’s temple also in the sense that we live by Christian example to draw others into this temple. Taking care of one’s self exhibits a respect and reverence for life.
Wise counsel, Carl. Amazing testimony about your sobriety. Sound theology, in my opinion. This world needs you. God is rejoicing over you with singing!
Amen to that Pastor McGhee! If God is Love and Love is the ultimate and we are exhorted to Love our neighbor as ourselves, then I think self care is pretty much implicitly indicated. Personally I think that we “Love” others way more than we love ourselves. We love the “earthly delights” more than ourselves and we love them more often then God. We are human and make errors and God being the God of Redemption and Love helps us out along the way if we let Him.
For me when I am growing and learning is around sin. I have been praying for a long time around sin. I know when I sin and sometimes the covert or omissions I don’t know and ask to have revealed. However I think I have been too caught up (unconsciously) in wearing the hair shirt and chastising myself and being angry at my flaws and why can’t I not eat that peanut butter and bread at night, or why can’t I have more loving thoughts for my husband or whatever. Things that I feel are in direct opposition to what God would want for me. That’s the thing what “I” think. You’re correct in assuming we “know” what God thinks. I realize that I have been focusing so much on the sin and not on the redemption which really is the miracle here. Redemption and being whole. I am not bad I am human and flawed and that’s okay because I am a child of God. In his eyes I am perfectly flawed and human and He Loves me.
God forgives from the east to the west (sorry not good at remembering scripture verses exactly) Jesus died for my sin, FOR ME PERSONALLY! Did Jesus go to the cross and die and miracles of miracles was he resurrected for Me. Oh Ya!
So why do I in this earthly realm allow my fellow humans who are dissecting the Bible and putting it back out there and my own self beliefs based on other human beings beliefs, why do I allow myself to be so caught in the sin machine. Yes I sin, I don’t want to Love my neighbor she is the meanest beast I have met in my life and treats people terribly. Yet I am willing to try to afford forgiveness before I will forgive myself.
We are so mean to ourselves, meaner than I can ever imagine sometimes. Personally I believe the Holy Spirit leaves a trail wide to all sorts of things that God is trying to tell us. And I personally will walk those paths. I know when help is God given I feel it deep inside. I believe that God wants us to use all the resources He puts there for us. Do they look unconventional sometimes? Sure, but I know when He is at the root and I welcome all support and help. Whatever it looks like. It is sad for me sometimes when I see people who deny themselves the help that they could get because its not scripture based or because its for themselves and not in service to others.
Didn’t Jesus spend a lot of time alone in prayer? Throughout the New Testament it explores over and over again the time that Christ went off to meditate to spend time alone with God.
I think with my deepest heart that Sana and this blog are God sent and we are blessed deeply. Along with you and the other guest bloggers who are so willing to share the Word, whatever that may look like.
Col, delighted to have encouraged you on your journey. I resonate with your comment, “We are so mean to ourselves.” It is so consistent with the Bible teaching that Satan’s favorite ploy is to be “the accuser of the brethren.”
There are, in my view, two kinds of guilt:
Good guilt which comes from God and always leads to forgiveness, freedom, and celebration;
Bad guilt which comes for the Evil one and always leads to self-hate, chronic hangups, and the disintegration of integrity, personality, and health.
oh . . .. you are BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! two kinds of guilt, one that is full of redemption and love, as Le Leche League says about discipline “I know I am Loved and I know what to do”. Where bad guilt is the Evil one – self hatred etc. If its not Love its something else and that’s our cue. OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. As always God brings just what we need when we need it!
Early in my nervous breakdown “journey”, I spent several months in and out of psychiatric wards as physicians kept trying to find a medication that would work for me – and I kept reacting to them so severely that I had to be hospitalized (in physchiatric wards) as they treated me for the various reactions and started me on yet another medication. Phychiatric wards, at least for me, were terrifying places to be, mostly because I was hearing other people’s horrific stories and hadn’t yet realized how horrific mine was. Aside from the fact that I was absolutely terrified about where I was, my greatest problem was that no one EVER brought up religion or faith in any discussions. Everything was horribly, horribly negative and, at one point, I actually walked away from a partial phychiatric unit (We went daily from 9-3.) because the stories were so awful and the responses to them so equally awful that I couldn’t bear to be there anymore. (They found me a couple of miles away and brought me back, threatening to put me back into the lock-down ward, as if I weren’t scared enough!)
One day, I finally realized that what was missing in all of this horror was God, and God had been the One who had kept me going all of my life. I found myself at church pleading with my minister to make some faith-based sense out of what was, quite literally, insanity. She became my go-to person when therapists weren’t available, but she also connected me with a Pastoral Counselor. For a variety of reasons, the counselor didn’t work out well after a while, but I had at least been led in the right direction – led BACK to the right direction. It made all the difference in my healing process. And then I found Friendtoyourself, learned how to love myself, and the rest is, finally, pretty much history.
Do I think loving myself is wrong? Absolutely not! God created us out of love. God created us TO love. And, as we’ve said many times here, we can’t love if we can’t love ourselves. Those of us who are parents – and grandparents – know how hard it is to hear our children – grandchildren – say they hate the way they look, they hate who they are, they even hate themselves. How many of us have worked so hard to convince our kids that they are wonderful and loved and that they need to love themselves? How painful must it be for God to hear His children not love ourselves? As children of God, whatever our religious belief, the best way to honor our creator is to love what – and who – He created…and, no matter what we sometimes think, we are the best of His creations, and loving ourselves is the best way to thank Him and praise Him.
Grandma, you write with such pathos. Your experience about the terrifying psychiatric ward is a compelling reminder that even the best-intentioned human interventions fall short, at times.
So thankful you finally found that God was there all the time. And with the help of your minister, God gave you insight to make sense out of insanity.
Your concluding questions and statements do make both logical and theological sense, in my opinion. I join you in Praising the Creator through self-care.
I am so grateful to be able to read your story. Thank you and I am so grateful that you were shown the way back and for the reminder to not hate ourselves but to Love ourselves. God Loves Us!
Thank you and blessings