Self Care is Big but is it Biblical?

The New Year is fast approaching and it’s guaranteed that “practicing self-care” is going to be a top resolution, especially for Millennials. In fact, last year more than half of Millennial women said they wanted to focus more on their emotional well-being, which is part of the goal of practicing self-care.

It’s not just Millennials that practice self-care, however, it’s also busy moms who want more balance in their lives and working professionals who want to alleviate stress. Many who practice self-care are Christians who have embraced the concept that it’s impossible to pour from an empty cup. It’s obvious that self-care is big business, but the question Christians need to be asking is whether or not it’s Biblical.

Where Did Self-Care Come From?

The beginnings of self-care is rooted in the field of medicine when health professionals started advising their patients to embrace exercise and establish healthy habits. It was also recommended that those in high-stress jobs, such as EMTs and social workers, take time for themselves as a way to combat the effects of on-the-job stress. These people were told they could not take care of others if they did not first take care of themselves.

As both the women’s movement and the civil rights movement began taking shape in the 1960s, so did the act of self-care. Both women and people of color were told they needed to rebel against the “failures of a white, patriarchal medical system” and take control of their own bodies. This idea most likely played a role in the acceptance and legalization of abortion in 1973.

In the late 1970s, the focus shifted to everyone, regardless of gender or color, to do away with Western medicine, and instead take on a holistic approach to health. During the 1980s and 90s, the commercialization of fitness, wellness, and self-care was embraced by the wealthy. Health clubs began offering Yoga classes and Fortune 500 companies established their own wellness centers for employees. After the horrific events of 9/11 in 2001, self-care became a popular way for survivors and first responders to manage their PTSD.

With the rise of blogs throughout the 2000s, self-care became a popular topic. In 2014, two bloggers named Fariha and Sara of a blog called “The Hairpin”, stated that their primary purpose in defining self-care was to, “Talk to women about navigating a world where they are their own savior.” The year 2017 saw an increased surge in self-care when Millennials and Democrats had to cope with the fact that their candidate, Hilary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. Millennial celebrity Lena Dunham famously took a week off following the election to “center” herself in the mountains and get over the loss.

Should Christians Practice Self-Care?

According to Women’s Health magazine, the whole idea of self-care has to do with, “Embracing the techniques and lifestyle changes that help manage the symptoms of anxiety, depression and more.” In an article titled, “52 Ways to Practice Self-Care for Better Emotional Health,” the magazine states that self-care is not selfish, instead it is being self-aware.

The Bible says the exact opposite and that instead of focusing on self, focus and awareness should be on God and others. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The Bible also says in Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Instead of practicing self-care and scheduling daily diaphragmatic breathing sessions, Christians should use common sense and wisdom, which includes turning off their devices when they are feeling overwhelmed or reading a book when they need to relax. They can even heed the fifth commandment and “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” If God needed to rest after working for six days, then Christians should realize that they do, too.

Some Christians, like Allie Stuckey who blogs at “The Conservative Millennial” says that self-love, self-care, and self-empowerment are all part of the same idea, an idea that does not come from scripture. “It’s in looking away from ourselves and toward God that we will receive the benefits that we stupidly look for in this self-love/self-help movement.”

Stuckey also states that the secular idea of self-care isn’t a proper solution to anxiety and depression. “Maybe it’s not more self-love and self-focus and self-care that we need, maybe we should focus on something bigger than ourselves, namely the One who made us, our Creator. Maybe we need to focus more outward.” She believes that because God sufficiently cares for his children, Christians shouldn’t obsessively worry about taking care of themselves.

Marshal Segal, a writer for the website, Desiring God, sums up the anti-Biblical self-care movement saying, “The care you really need is not buried somewhere deep inside of you, waiting to be unlocked by some dessert or diversion. No, you need the healing, forgiving, restoring, and transforming grace of a God who loves you.”


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