The preoccupation with self-growth, self-improvement, and self-care is ubiquitous in our culture. Some have suggested that the baby boomers were the genesis of this prevailing attitude, so much so that , in the 1970s, writers Tom Wolfe and Christopher Lasch dubbed the boomers “The Me Generation” and the narcissistic culture, respectively.

Nevertheless, followers of Jesus need to see that narcissism and self-indulgence are not the same as healthy self-care, which is essential to us. When looking at Jesus, He shows good self-care. For example, the religious authorities of the day were offended by His association with sinners and tax collectors, and even charged Him with self-indulgence, claiming He was a drunkard and a glutton. These charges would suggest that Jesus, instead, enjoyed good food and drink and being with others, indications of good self-care. In addition, Jesus displayed good self-care by taking time for himself, to pray either early in the morning or evening, and to nurture many friendships, including those with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, along with the disciples.

So how do we, as followers of Jesus, care for ourselves without self-indulgence? Ultimately, the critical factor in distinguishing between the two (for both ourselves and Jesus) is understanding the result or final product of what we are doing.

For followers of Jesus, the goal is being conformed to His image. For Jesus, the goal was bringing glory to His Father through His death and resurrection. Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is short-sighted, unfocused on the result, and serves only as a distraction.

How then are we conformed to His image? In the same way that Jesus brought glory to His Father—by dying to ourselves. C.S. Lewis states this well in his book, Mere Christianity:

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it… Keep nothing back. Nothing that you have not given away will be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

This is true self-care. Lose yourself and you will become the self you always wanted.

by Dr. Al Barrow, Director – Spiritual Development Center