You’re Really Okay with This?   5 comments

No arguments with my last Ayn Rand post, with my “selfish” assertion that I should care for my own needs before I care for the needs of others?  My primary moral concern is myself, according to Rand, and I agree with her.  I am ultimately responsible (before God) for my own soul, and it is immoral for me to make a choice that undermines my spiritual well-being, even if someone else might apparently benefit by that action.  I must not sacrifice truth or goodness, purity or faith, love or integrity for any cause, however good, because the end never justifies the means.  I must not be false to myself in order to benefit another.  No good ever comes from choosing against myself.

But what about a mother sacrificing herself for her children or a husband for his wife?  Is there no place for self-sacrifice?  I think I can best approach this question by considering personal gains and losses.  We all suffer losses in this life–not only those forced on us by circumstances, but those we choose for ourselves, for our own benefit.  I choose to lose income for a more fulfilling job, I choose to curtail freedom for the joys of marriage, I choose to forgo speaking my mind for the sake of peace.  In other words, I sacrifice the good for the better; the lesser for the greater, and ultimately, I am ready to sacrifice everything, even my physical life, for that which is fundamental to who I am–my heart and soul.

I think the term “self-sacrifice” is prone to misunderstanding in this regard.  I must never sacrifice my true self for anyone or anything.  I may often choose to suffer a loss for the benefit of myself or others, even great loss in extreme circumstances, but I cannot undermine my soul for the sake of anyone.  It would be immoral and ungodly.

IS THERE ANY LEFT FOR ME?

Many would agree with this theoretically, but in practice I think we regularly, though unintentionally, trade away our soul little bits at a time.  Instead of telling a friend that I need some quiet time, I keep talking on the phone.  Instead of taking a refreshing vacation, I spend the week helping a family member move.  Instead of taking a stand for myself at work, I yield once more to the boss’s insistence.  I don’t tell my spouse what I really think; I wear scuffed shoes to save money; I let the kids choose the radio station.  All of these choices seem godly, and they may be… unless they are slowly grinding down my soul, quenching my life, tripping up my dance with God.

I am learning to listen to my heart when it tells me what I truly need, and if I need it, then it is my moral obligation to meet that need to the best of my ability.  Others will push me to compromise myself and will make me responsible for meeting their wants and needs.  They are in essence making me their savior, but that role belongs to One alone.  If they truly need something, it is God’s responsibility to meet that need, whether or not he uses me.  Grace is the breath of life, and I must put on my airline oxygen mask before helping my child with his or we will both succumb. 

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Posted September 28, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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5 responses to “You’re Really Okay with This?

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  1. Like – BK

  2. Just got in from a trip…and saw this link…I agree and disagree with you…We probably agree but because of our experiences or perspectives want to make sure that our part of the elephant that we are blindly trying to communicate to others is seen… anyway here is the link… http://wisecounsel.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/self-care-or-stewardship/

    • Glad to get some feedback! I much prefer a conversation. I looked at the link, and see a worthwhile discussion. I would say that the idea of stewardship may well cover the same area of concern as self-care, perhaps looking at the same thing from different angles. That is, an accurate estimate of self-stewardship would probably lead to the same choices as a healthy estimate of self-care. The one hesitation I would have in making this shift in terms is that the concept of stewardship is about responsibility and duty and as such would incline towards a legalistic perspective (self-righteousness about one’s choices and blame for those who disagree, a sense that what I do is more important than who I am, etc). On the other hand, I can see how identifying self-care as an obligation could be freeing for those who don’t feel justified in doing it.
      Even as I discuss it with you, I see that “self-care” can distance us from God’s grace as well since the focus is on what I do for my self rather than on what God does for me. The truth is that it is often quite difficult to make choices for my best (especially when others are critical), so that a firm grasp of God’s grace is a necessary foundation to this approach to life. In fact, any other basis for self-care would be really unhealthy. I could use a phrase like “living in grace,” but that is much broader than the issue of choices we make to see that our own needs are met, even if those choices are simply making way for God to act on our behalf.
      I guess the change in focus i want to make from self-sacrificial living is that our true needs do not compete with others’ needs, that in fact, to help others in the best way possible, I must act out of a fullness of grace, received grace. In other words, grace is not a limited commodity that must either come to me or to another person, but it comes *through* me to another person–it restores my life first. It is not like money that I am given and I can then disperse to others without using any myself. It is like a biological necessity, like air–I must imbibe it first, it must course through my veins, bring life to every part of my body before I can breathe it into a drowning victim. Grace is like a gene in my DNA that I can only pass on after it has become part of who I am. I cannot give the grace of God generously until I have received it generously, been transformed and made alive by it (and this is not a one time act, say at conversion, but a constant flow like breathing oxygen).

  3. Enjoyed this insight and gentle reminder. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I agree that we must care for our souls. And caring for our souls includes taking time out from others. After all, as you mentioned, I cannot give grace, unless I have received it, and continue to receive it everyday.

    But the struggle is to find the fine balance between caring for myself so that I can serve others better and caring for myself with an egotistical attitude.

    Jesus cared for his soul and took times away from people. At times to rest, at times to spend time with His Father. But at the same time, we are reminded in Phil 2:3-8 that we gave Himself and His interests for our sake, and we are exhorted to follow his example in our relationship with others.

    May the Lord give us the wisdom to know where to draw the line and where to find the balance!

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