We cannot give what we do not have.
It makes sense, right? Materially, of course we literally cannot give something that we don’t possess. We cannot participate in a trade with resources we don’t have to offer.
What about emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually? Can you extend love, grace, compassion, encouragement, and kindness to others if you don’t possess it within and apply it to yourself?
I don’t think you can.
Self-Love Isn’t Selfish
Today’s culture often mistakes self-care and self-love as selfish. Particularly in Christian circles, we are encouraged and even exhorted to give, give, give of ourselves in the name of Christian service and love. There is nothing inherently wrong with that directive. The Bible speaks often of caring for others as Christ cares for us, and we should do that to the best of our ability.
However, when we lose sight of our own needs, blur the line between “you” and “me,” and forget how to ask for help, we distort the God-given order of interdependence. We are not created for life alone in isolation (total independence), nor are we meant to rely completely on others (co-dependence).
We limit what we can give to others when we neglect what we have to give.
Included in what we have to give are resources like our time, emotions, energy, intellect, and creativity. These resources are applied in every arena – work, family, church, community.
Applying stewardship to ourselves may sound counter-intuitive. But, before we can extend ourselves to others in a God-honoring manner, we must recognize and embrace who we are as God has created us to be.
Scripture reveals our Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27) and the great care with which God created us (Psalm 139). Our God, who intimately knows us, loves us despite our sin. In an age where we critique, ridicule, shame, and bully each other in schools, at home, and in the workplace, it’s imperative that we remember how we are truly, eternally valued (1 Samuel 16:7). Cementing ourselves in Christ’s love for us frees us to love others better and more whole-heartedly.
The Key to “Wholehearted Living”
Some of the most compelling material I have read about fostering authentic human connection and relationship is by Brené Brown, a well-known shame researcher whose Ted Talks went viral with almost 21 million views. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown shares her findings from years of researching individuals and their patterns of living.
While searching for connections between things like fear, shame, and vulnerability, she discovered individuals who exhibited what she calls wholehearted living – men and women who lived inspiring lives of connection, relationship, authenticity, and love. What she found was, that in order to live a life dedicated to loving others, we must unashamedly know, embrace, and love who we are.
Brown touches on biblical rooted concepts. Applying stewardship to relationships most certainly, even imperatively, requires us to apply stewardship to ourselves. Carefully managing our personal resources of time, emotions, energy, intellect, and creativity allows us to apply those resources efficiently and effectively in the ways God calls us to do so. We cannot know how to manage well unless we understand, embrace, and love what we have to manage.
The Journey to Self-Care
The journey to self-awareness and self-care is a long, worthy one. To begin, Brown poses three essential practices in cultivating a life of wholehearted living – courage, compassion, and connection. These practices have dramatically shifted my perspective on relationships, for the better.
- Courage in a relationship, as Brown defines it, means vulnerably sharing who we are with the world. She says choosing courage makes the world and those around us better and braver. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
- At the heart of compassion is acceptance – first accepting ourselves, then accepting others. When we live boundaried lives, we are freer to love others for who they are, without resentment for hurting us.
- Connection is more than sharing a thought. Connection happens when we are seen, heard, and valued. Connection breeds strength in a relationship and is life-giving.
The love and belonging we long for in our relationships begins with believing that we are worthy of love and belonging because God has deemed it so. When we value ourselves as lovable and worthy of love, we can love courageously and compassionately, fostering deep connections.
These principles apply to everyone and every relationship – particularly in the workplace. The confidence we elude from embracing our gifts and managing our resources well is unmistakable. Stewarding our personal resources well makes us more effective in all areas of life, work especially.
Daring to love authentically and tenaciously begins with applying God’s love to ourselves.
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