There is a sense in which self-care is one of our most basic responsibilities before God and our fellow man. Yet there is another sense in which it can be in direct opposition to our most basic responsibilities before God and man. Definitions and proportions make all the difference.
Words and phrases come and go. Both within the church and without, they often rise for a while, then quietly slip into decline and disuse. It is an annual tradition for dictionaries to announce the new words they are adding as well as the antiquated ones they are removing. In recent days, I’ve repeatedly heard the phrase “self-care,” or one of its many synonyms. I’ve heard it used in church contexts and in secular ones. I’ve seen Christians and non-Christians alike laud it or lament it, describe it as a key to health or bash it as a frivolous waste. I’ve heard many wonder: Should Christians emphasize self-care?
As is so often the case, I think the answer is both yes and no. There is a sense in which self-care is one of our most basic responsibilities before God and our fellow man. Yet there is another sense in which it can be in direct opposition to our most basic responsibilities before God and man. Definitions and proportions make all the difference.
A basic tenet of the Christian worldview is that we are to care. To care is to provide “what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.” From the very beginning, human beings were charged with caring for God’s creation and everything in it. And while even the somethings are important, we have a special responsibility toward the someones, for it is the ones who bear the image of God. We see the provision of care as essential to the Old Testament Law and the New Testament church alike. We see care as essential to family and social relationships. Bound up within the second great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself,” is the duty of care.
Yet also bound up within it is the acceptance of some level of self-care. After all, we are not to love our neighbors instead of ourselves but as ourselves. We need to be careful here. We are naturally self-infatuated and prone to elevate ourselves over others, despite the Bible’s calls to radical self-denial. I don’t see this commandment calling us to self-obsession. But I’d still maintain there is an appropriate form of self-care.