“I know I need to take care of myself, but I feel so much guilt for doing so.”
“As a working mom, I'm already away from my family too much! I can't take even more time away from them."
”I know I need to attend bible study, but my kids make me feel so guilty for leaving."
Can you relate to any of these statements?
Most women can.
For many, the cost of feeling guilty simply is too great to embrace self-care. Any benefit that could be experienced from a little bit of self-love is quickly eliminated because of one simple and yet, profound, feeling - guilt.
Mothers are excellent at feeling guilty - me included!
We feel guilty if we work. We feel guilty if we stay home. We even feel guilty when our children don’t get interaction with other kids. We feel guilty if we let them watch too much TV or play video games. We feel guilty... all - the - stinkin' - time!
Whether it be from our own self-expectations or from what others place on us, feelings of guilt keep us from taking care of ourselves. It keeps us from filling up our cups, even though in our hearts we know we desperately need a filling.
What do we do about this guilt?
Last week I talked about how the Bible is filled with encouragement about self-care.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39).
In order to love others with all of your heart, mind, and soul, you must first love your neighbor as yourself.
Did you catch this part of the verse? It is the most critical part to this truth.
If you are not loving yourself, then how will you love those God has placed in your life to care for?
God doesn’t place guilt on us for filling our tanks. Heck, most families are even supportive of us taking time for ourselves. After all, our spouses want us to be happy and filled; they know that a happy mama ends in a happy household.
Then where does this guilt come from?
The guilt you feel comes from deep within your heart. It comes from knowing that something in life is off-balance.
Think of guilt as your blinking, neon color warning sign, that the life you are currently living is off course. It is your sign that something needs to change.
Use this feeling as a prompt to ask God to reveal the areas of your life that need pruning or reworking.
The truth is, guilt tends to dissipate or lessen when life is balanced. This one I know from experience.
When I was in the thick of living life off-balance, I desperately craved community and exercise so I joined a women's running group.
When I first joined, I found myself not going to my Saturday classes as the guilt of leaving my family was simply too much. If I did go, my thoughts were consumed with wishing I had never showed up.
Once I got my life rebalanced, I found that my feelings of guilt became less and less. This was the time that not only did I attend my running class more frequently but my thinking shifted from “What am I missing out on?” to “I need this to fill up my soul!”
What appears to be a simple mind-shift really was so much more. It was about restructuring my life so that I felt more balanced.
This restructuring is not easy to do. It requires time. It requires awareness. It requires the courage to say “I can’t live like this anymore.” And, it requires you to do something about it.
Today, I come before you not to shame you, but to encourage you.
If you too resonate with feeling guilty over spending time to fill your cup, then what part of your life needs a rebalance? What areas do you need to prune in order to feel more in line with your values?
I want nothing more than for you to take this challenge on as a form of self-care. If, as you do, you need a friend to listen to you, support you, or to simply encourage you, then go ahead and hit ‘reply’ and I’ll be right there walking beside you.
Praying you through,
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