"You need to take care of yourself."
For me, this is an expression fraught with tension.
On the one hand, the need to "take care of myself" can be abused to justify indulging my sin nature or neglecting my responsibilities to my family, my church, and my community. It can be used as a tool to emotionally bully others, or to excuse wrong behavior.
"No room in the budget for a weekly manicure? Well, I'll just use the credit card. After all, it's important for me to take care of myself!"
"Patty is mad because I dumped all the work of chaperoning the school field trip on her? Well, she can just deal with it. I had too many things on my schedule that day, and I was beginning to get stressed out. It's unreasonable for Patty to be angry at me simply because I bailed at the last minute: I needed to take care of myself!"
On the other hand, I think it is surprisingly easy - particularly for moms, and extra-particularly for moms of young children - to neglect taking care of yourself to the point that you become unable to serve those around you effectively or joyfully. I have on occasion worked myself sick, too busy taking care of others to "take care of myself," until I crashed and ended up laid out in bed. I have even used Scripture to justify this kind of self-neglect: doesn't the Bible tell us to "die to self"?
Add to this tension a propensity to over analyze EVERYTHING, and you can see why "you need to take care of yourself" is an expression that causes me significant internal conflict!
Some things are obvious necessities, and they clearly fall under the "take care of yourself" umbrella: I need to eat. I need to clothe myself. I need to rest.
But what do I need to eat? And how much? Do I truly need comfortable, new, well-fitting clothing, or can my needs be adequately met by a few items from Goodwill? Rest is tricky - what is "rest" to one person may not be "rest" to another! An afternoon nap, working out at the gym, quiet time to read or write, dinner out with friends - all of these can be forms of rest. Where is the line between using these forms of rest to "take care of myself" - and - using them to indulge myself or as a means to manipulate others?
I am at a much freer, saner place on this issue today than in the past - acknowledging that I need to take of myself causes much less mental stress, and I have outgrown the good-Christians-neglect-themselves way of thinking. Yes, I need to take care of myself. The difficulty is: What do I truly need to take care of myself?
I think this is a struggle many of us face, and that we will continue to face all our lives.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!
2 days ago