As a Christian, have you ever wondered if or when it’s okay to practice self-care? Maybe you’ve asked:
Click the links above to skip down to a particular self-care section. Otherwise, let’s start with the good news: Practicing self-care is okay when practicing it in a way that honors God. However, we must carefully filter out the world’s way of practicing self-care because the world’s ideas about it are often selfish, self-focused and unbiblical.
Is it selfish or sinful to practice self-care?
Self-care involves activities that help our physical, mental and spiritual health. This can include getting enough sleep, healthy eating, prayer, working out and having time alone to recharge. Taking time to read a book, relax or praying when stressed are also included as self-care practices.
That said, some proponents of self-care promote unhealthy aspects regarding things like stress, such as engaging in activities to forget about your problems. It’s okay to take such a breather once in a while, but we must not avoid confrontation when it is necessary, godly and loving toward those around us.
Other unbiblical forms of self-care include sinful forms of self-love over self-denial and obedience to Christ and His Word. Above all else, we are to love God and love others. Philippians 2 brings helpful instruction in these matters:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.”Philippians 2:3-4 (CSB)
Whether self-care is selfish or sinful depends on why and how you practice it.
Self-care is selfish when:
- You’re focused solely on yourself at the expense of God and others.
- You’re avoiding responsibilities, stressors and conflicts you need to deal with.
- It’s your excuse to avoid others you need to learn to love and be Christlike toward.
- You never spend time serving or loving on others; or you ignore their needs most of the time.
- You forget that God is the ultimate provider of relief, rest and restoration.
Self-care is not selfish when:
- You take time to recharge after a stressful day so you can be more loving toward your family.
- You get alone to rest or pray after a conflict, with the aim to confront the issue after you’ve calmed your body, thoughts and emotions.
- You take time to rest and recharge after working, serving, volunteering or just spending time with friends (introverts understand this one well).
- It involves activities that honor Christ and look to Him as the ultimate source in everything.
These examples should give you an idea of when self-care is or is not sinful or selfish. The main point is this: Self-care is not selfish when we aim to love God and others well in the process. Self-care–practiced in a way that pleases God–enables us to give more of ourselves to others as we follow the example of Christ.
“Self-care is not selfish when we aim to love God and others well in the process. Self-care–practiced in a way that pleases God–enables us to give more of ourselves to others as we follow the example of Christ.” #selfcareTweet
The most important thing is this: If you are practicing self-care for selfish reasons, realize that your ultimate need is for God and what only He can provide. He is the only One who can help you live a balance life and deal with stress and conflict.
Do you know the One who made you and has provided true rest and restoration for our souls? Read this.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Where is self-care in the Bible?
The phrase “self-care” itself is not found in the Bible outright. Nonetheless, Jesus appears to practice a sort of self-care when He spends time alone in prayer with the Father. These times seem crucial to His earthly ministry.
Jesus does not leave out His disciples either, also calling them to rest after ministering:
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”Mark 6:30-31 (ESV)
We can imagine that Jesus needed these times as He taught and ministered to both His disciples and the crowds (Mark 1:32-35). Again in Mark 6:30-34, we see the crowds following after Jesus as He and His disciples seek a time of self-care. However, instead of refusing to minister to them, Jesus poured out to them anyway. This is a good example of not letting our practice of self-care get in the way of caring for those around us.
Finally, Jesus shares a simple truth in the second of the two greatest commandments we are to follow:
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.‘”Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)
Isn’t it interesting that He says, “love your neighbor as yourself?” Is it possible that we cannot love and care for others rightly if we do not care for ourselves? If we fail to take time to eat right, rest and take care of our bodies, we may eventually have nothing left in us for those around us. This is why self-care is a helpful practice for believers.
“Christ calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we fail to take care of ourselves, how can we rightly care for our neighbor?” #selfcareTweet
How can I practice self-care as a Christian?
When practicing self-care as a Christian, avoid looking to the world’s ideas without careful discernment. Instead, seek to cultivate rhythms and habits that honor God and are rooted in His ways. These may include spiritual disciplines (silence, solitude, prayer and fasting for example). Turn your anxieties into prayer and find things you can thank Him for even when under stress or pressure.
Other ways to practice self-care include spending time away from your phone and social media. Doing a social media fast or setting some boundaries can help.
You might also enjoy time spent in nature. Use this time to enjoy God’s creation while expressing heart-felt prayers and worship to Him. Express gratitude to the Lord and ask Him to show you where He is at work in the midst of a stressful season, just as He is at work in His creation.
Ultimately, self-care cannot benefit us completely unless we include Jesus in this practice, seeking Him above all. He is our source and the only one who can help with our stress and satisfy the depths of our souls. We want to care for ourselves–body, soul and spirit–and this means doing so in a way that honors the Lord and actively cares for others.