Remember the last time you had a light bulb moment, an ah-ha moment, an epiphany? That moment when a thought, an experience, something you just read, or something someone said, becomes an extraordinary, maybe life-changing revelation to you? I had one of those yesterday. It was something very simple, really, but, for me, it was powerful indeed!
I was born the second of 5 children, and was raised mainly by my mother after my parents divorced when I was about 8. We didn’t have much growing up but the one thing we did have was love. Though we didn’t spend a lot of time with Mom – she worked long hours to provide for us, attended school full-time to earn a nursing degree, and spent countless hours doing homework – she made sure we knew we were loved. And as she showed us love, she also instilled in us a deep love and caring for others. No matter how bad we kids might have thought we had it, we knew there was always someone, somewhere who had it worse.
Therefore, I grew up being aware of others’ circumstances around me and helping others became second nature. I grew up believing that other people’s needs were more important than mine, and if need be, I could lay aside my circumstance to help them. So, caring for others has always felt good to me.
As a result of growing up without a father figure influence, and having a very busy mother, I have struggled with control and self-esteem issues, manifesting into eating/food issues, such as bulimia (for which I have had treatment and celebrate recovery, J for many years), but still struggle with sweet addictions, and the pull of old, bad habits from time to time. However, I have always felt that my issues impacted or hurt no one other than myself. If I chose to live like that, it was ok because no one else would be hurt by it. I could live like that and still be a loving, caring person, willing and able to help my neighbor when needed. Sounds good, right?
Yesterday I realized how wrong I have been in thinking that way. Contemplating a few questions in a book I am reading (Wonder Struck, by Margaret Feinberg**) it hit me. These questions basically asked:
What does loving your neighbor as yourself, as described in the Bible mean to you?
Do you think you can truly love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself?
When have you not taken care of yourself and, as a result, found yourself caring for other people less?
First, I have always thought I loved “my neighbor” more than myself, and thought that was a good thing.
Second, of course I answered yes, I can love my neighbor fully with the love that God put in my heart for them. It doesn’t matter if I love myself or not.
Then on the third question I of course began to answer that I haven’t cared for people less because of not caring for myself.
But, a little voice inside me said, “Wait – let’s think about that a moment.
Is that really true?”
Hmmmm….well…when I am not caring for myself the best, and am in a period of “catering” to my food issues, when I’ve had some binging days and I’m feeling “fat” or guilty, I do tend to hide in my house and not take part in social activities until I feel less fat or guilty or whatever. But that doesn’t hurt anyone else, does it?
Well, let’s see, when I am hiding in my house, not wanting anyone to see me, I am not seeing anyone else either. If I am not seeing anyone else, then how am I to know if “my neighbor” is in need, and care for them?
Hmmm…well, I guess you could say then, that catering to my not-so-healthy eating/thinking issues, from time to time, and as a result, hiding myself in my house and not dealing with people –though not really harming anyone else –actually might be a little selfish behavior. And if I am being selfish with something – that means someone else is doing without that thing I am being selfish with and keeping for myself, right? Hmmm…thinking a little deeper…
Can this really mean that in my not-really-meaning-to-be-selfish behavior, I am actually caring for other people less?
Yes! I can see now that when I am not caring for myself correctly, I really AM caring for OTHERS LESS. Not purposely, but yes, it’s true!
So, now I understand that even though I think I am doing no harm to anyone but myself on those days that I want to binge on sweets, the result of my binging does affect others. It does cause me to be less caring of others, because in my feeling bad and my guilt, I am hiding myself away from them, taking away the chance of my ministering to them – or them ministering to me!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to knowingly be less caring; I, nor anyone else, can make any good difference in the world if we are practicing being less caring, right? In catering to my bad food cravings, even if not every day, and thinking that doing so affected no one else, I was wrong – my results do affect others, and not in a good way.
So, now I have new incentive to resist those tempting urges to binge on sweets instead of healthy foods, and to get proper exercise, not too much or too little. In resisting those tempting little urges, not only will I be taking better care of myself, I will actually be caring for other people – more!
In closing, and as a thought for this week, I would invite you to ask yourself those same questions that Margaret Feinberg asks in her book study, “Wonderstruck” and see where you stand. Will it be a lightbulb moment for you too?
Blessings and much caring to you,
** WONDER STRUCK, AWAKEN TO THE NEARNESS of GOD, © 2013 Margaret Feinberg,
Published by LifeWay