Is It Selfish To Put Yourself First

Is It Selfish To Put Yourself 1st?

Something I’ve struggled with is the concept of putting myself first.

Because it’s biblical to put everyone else’s needs in front of your own, right?

We are to lay our lives down and serve constantly, right?

Kind of…

My heroes

I grew up as a pastor’s kid and watched my parents make huge sacrifices for other people daily.

They would sacrifice money, time, resources, health – you name it, they laid down their lives for others. And they never seemed overly put out by any of it.

It was amazing to witness and truly inspirational.

However I’ve found over the years I couldn’t replicate their constant giving of self.

I would lay my life down, trying to serve others and I’d just burn out after a while.

I was missing a key part of the puzzle somewhere.

What’s worse is it caused me to resent serving others.

Don’t get me wrong I’d still do it.

I’d help with the youth, run the audio/visual stuff in church, do sermons, run outreach events, take people to the airport, comfort friends who’d call me at 3am having a breakdown.

But I would resent that I had to do it and that it was burning me out big time.

In the event of emergency…

Given the nature of what I do I have to fly a lot!

I could probably recite the safety announcements by heart for most of the airlines I fly.

One thing that jumps out at me every time is when they tell you how the oxygen masks work. You know:

In the event of an emergency oxygen masks will appear from the panel above your head. Place the mask over your face and pull the strap to secure. The bag will not inflate.

(I told you I could recite it by heart)

They then say something interesting:

Please ensure you secure your own mask first before helping anyone else.

Why do they say that?

Because if you don’t put your own mask on you are going to pass out.

That’s not much help to anyone!

If you want to help your neighbours in this scenario the best thing you can do for them is to put your own mask on first and ensure you are in a position to help them.

Looking after yourself is not selfish

It’s important to ensure you are the best you possible.

It’s wonderful to be able to help others and serve in the ways God has gifted you. But if you serve to the point of burning out your ability to help is severely diminished!

Nobody wants to be around a burned out, sick, depressed and frustrated you! Not when they could have a full of life, healthy, joyful and contented you!

I’d rather serve in a healthy capacity for 5hrs a week for 50 years than for 50hrs a week and die from exhaustion a year later!!

Not only that but so would God – you are going to serve with more life and impact many more people!

The missing link

Don’t misunderstand me – It’s not about the hours you put in. You could argue that since I don’t get paid for what I do it’s all “service of others” and trust me it can take a lot more than 50hrs a week some weeks!

So this isn’t a blog about doing less. It’s about about doing the right things first.

You see the missing link was to recharge my batteries and making sure the world got the best me possible when I showed up.

Jesus went away to spend time with the father. And not only that, sometimes He excluded the multitudes to spend time with the few.

It’s OK to think “I need some me time” or “I need to have some fun with my friends today”. If you are feeling drained and that’s what you need to recharge your battery then do it!

Know who you are and what you need to be a healthy whole person.

Spend intentional time with God to look after yourself spiritually, spend time with yourself and others to look after yourself emotionally and spend time exercising and eating well to look after yourself physically.

Because if you burn out in these areas your service to others and for God is always going to suffer in one way or another.

So it’s not selfish to put yourself first.

It’s selfish to burn yourself out and get yourself into a place where you can’t serve in a meaningful capacity anymore.

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3 Comments

  1. We’ve had this dilemma, also; and especially me as a Mom, wife, grandmother, co-pastor/minister with my husband…My get away is spent reading – the Word, and interesting books, and/or making crafts…as well as not saying ‘yes’ to EVERYTHING…thanks, Phil for your thoughts/encouragement/input.

  2. MUCH NEEDED. I’ve known for a long time I can say no to some things yet I still don’t and eventually at the rate I’m going I’m going to burn out. I also have a friend that once told me “don’t make me your god.” I’m not exactly sure what she meant but I know I can’t depend on her for everything or perhaps anything for that matter. I have to depend on God the same way she does. It’s just that when I say no it looks like I’m being mean and I want to explain to people that I need rest too and how I haven’t even gotten back up to “par” the way I was before I had cancer. I’ve gotten through that and it’s been a long time since i went through the treatments but I’ve had other minor problems since then that I believe stem from a lack of rest and not always dieting properly. Anyway thanks Phil. I’m glad you said what was in my heart.

  3. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This sets a pretty high bar for how you should love yourself. Not to mention that it’s the step before loving your neighbor.

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