Taking Care of Yourself First is Not Selfishness:
It is Absolutely Crucial to Your Ability to Help Others
By Marc Hardy, PhD
I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist (as did Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Jefferson, so I am in good company). So I offer the example of the life of Jesus not to evangelize but as an allegory to make a point. Jesus shared his fire with many people, healing the sick and poor, preaching his spiritual truths and teaching wisdom to those who wanted to listen. The results of his efforts are well documented, but he did not do all of these things alone and he took care of himself. His disciples were always near him to assist his efforts, his needs were taken care of by others, and sitting at a meal with friends was not unusual. He took his spiritual health very seriously and prayed for days. He understood that in order to heal others and help them start anew, it was important that he honored himself as well.
Recently, someone commented on one of my Facebook posts that my view is suspect because sometimes the people who need help the most are often the ones who are least ready to receive it and may be resistant to our help. However, the main point was missed: I very clearly stated that sacrificing yourself for others who do not respond to repeated acts of help is self destructive and serves no one. I never stated that we should withhold our encouragement from others simply because they do not immediately respond to our efforts. In the real world, however, as age brings us wisdom, we soon face the truth that there are those who continually enjoy playing the victim role and enjoy the attention they garner from others as a result. Yet, they make little attempt to help themselves and are chronically negative, pulling themselves and everyone else down into their quagmire, which extinguishes our light and does nothing to ignite their potential. Following the allegory of Jesus once again, even he advised us not to cast our pearls before swine, meaning not to extend our help and encouragement to others who are not ready for our message or cannot appreciate it. So let’s take a lesson from one of the greatest healers the world has ever known and take care of ourselves so we can better help others.
Next time: Sharing Your Fire to Foster Independence Instead of Dependence