One of the best things I’ve done in seasons of healing is to follow the path. If healing is my goal, which it is, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. If it’s going to be painful, which it will be, I want to do everything in my power to learn what I need to learn in an effort to keep history from repeating itself.
In a season of increased pain from marriage betrayal, I immediately began to search for a therapist who was trained and certified in the type of therapy I needed. It is important to know what you need/want when searching for a therapist. Following the path took me to ministries which then led me to the invaluable recovery groups. My path led me to Celebrate Recovery where I found a group of face-to-face women who “get it”. I also found a biblical 12-Step program and a sponsor who is available to help me heal as she has also found healing. Books I read would mention something that piqued my interest. My therapist would recommend something so I would check it out. Someone who I trusted to have my best interest at heart would suggest a video and I would watch it, then I would check out others that seemed worthwhile. I would hear about an intensive or workshop and I would explore the possibility. Following the path of healing has proven to be a lifeline, but we first need to be open to following it. One of my favorite quotes of all time is,
“You can never tell to what untold glories a little humble path may lead if you follow far enough.” ~Lilias Trotter
It is probably a safe generalization to say that many women (I write for women because I am a woman) are more accustomed to caring for others much more easily than we care for ourselves. Not being in tune to what I need, I’ve sought the path of least resistance. That path afforded me the opportunity to not feel my pain or process through my disappointments. This is a coping skill that has enabled me to functionally adapt to my wounds, which I’m moderately grateful for, but it has also kept me from living my best life.
Self-care is stewardship. It is knowing how to love yourself well and doing it as long as you keep a few things in mind.
- Self-care brings healing not hurt (to you or anyone else).
- Self-care looks like an oxygen mask, not a blindfold.
- Self-care is taking good care of yourself and not expecting or waiting for others to do it for you.
In a recovery group I participated in, I learned two major takeaways in regards to self-care:
- I need to take care of my train car. When the train of life derails, I am not responsible for anyone else’s train car but my own. Getting my train car back on the track is one of the best visuals for me when I realize I’m not taking care of myself.
- When emotional intensity increases, self-care must also increase.
Self-care is self-love. One of the hardest places we have to get to is realizing that we are worth loving and we can no longer depend on others to do that for us.
Self-care is taking ownership of what you need to be healthy. (While this might seem selfish, it is not self-centered. There is a difference.) Taking ownership of your self-care will look like setting healthy boundaries for yourself and “protecting your property” but it might also look like daily prayer, a trip to Hong Kong (which is actually where I’m sitting as I write this), a counseling appointment, a call to a trusted and supportive friend, a pedicure or a nap or even committing to drinking more water. Only you know what you need. But whatever you need, as long as it brings healing and is not hurtful, do it.
Self-care is loving yourself well first so you can love others well. It’s putting on your oxygen mask so you are available to help others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
The scripture tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. So often, the focus from this scripture is on how we should love our neighbor but I speculate that it is more about how we can only love our neighbor well when we love ourselves well.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, the second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
How well you love yourself will determine how well you can love your neighbor. Your neighbor might be your literal neighbor, your church or community, your children, your husband or yes, even your ex-husband or someone in another broken relationship; but you won’t be able to love anyone well if you aren’t healthy first.
One of the first questions I ask someone (and myself) who seems to be spiraling in their pain and disappointment is, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?”
So, what are you doing to take care of yourself? What are you doing to follow your path to healing?
As a regular contributor, this post has also appeared on TheCourage.com.