Oxford languages define a selfish person as: “A person lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
The very definition of the word seems contrary to everything God created us to be when he said to love one another and esteem each other as better than ourselves. By definition, we would have to agree that it is not okay to be selfish BUT in reality: we need to remember that it is 110% okay to take care of ourselves. And I think many of us get taking care of ourselves mixed up with being selfish: it’s not. I know I’ve always felt this way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Taking care of ourselves is the exact opposite of selfishness because we are actually being considerate of others by presenting the absolute best version of ourselves to them. Let me show you:
When I first became a Mom, I thought it was selfish to take time for exercise, prepping to eat healthy meals, and even showering. I could go days on end in the same pair of sweat pants and feeling, well, awful. I would often forget to drink water, and my baby cried so much I had a hard time even getting to the bathroom. Missing my workouts and eating whatever I could get my hands on, such as kid snacks and leftover food scraps, left me miserable. Leaving my very basic needs unmet let me in a mess of emotions, exhaustion, and anxiety. I was irritable and frustrated, and rightfully so.
In that scenario, was my baby getting the best of me when I sacrificed all of my basic needs? Absolutely not. I was cranky throughout the days with him and grumpy when my husband returned from work. This also put a damper on our marriage. I can remember being so exhausted I knew it was unsafe for me to even drive down the road. The more kids I had, the more I figured out ways to prioritize my basic needs when I could, even in small ways. A sweet friend popped over with her little ones to watch him so that I could catch a quick nap. I had to get creative and find a bit of help because my husband worked 9-12 hour shifts. It wasn’t selfish to ask for help or find ways to look after myself: it was taking care of myself so that I could better take care of him.
With each passing day, I am learning that it is absolutely okay to take care of myself so that I can continue to do what God has called me to do. It’s not okay to be selfish and step on other people for our gain or pleasure. But it is okay to take care of ourselves. To take time away from other people when we need space to recharge. To look after our basic needs for sleep, health, nutrition, etc…
Some of us are so wrapped up in the idea of being “selfless” (like I was back then) that we have forgotten about ourselves and our basic needs altogether. And so “self-care” has become a thing: especially for those of us who are trying to get pieces of ourselves back after they have been trampled on by other people for so long.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish, but taking care of yourself in a way that steps on other people, according to the definition, is selfish: “A person lacking consideration for others…” is a selfish person. So in a beautiful balance between selfish and selfless, ideally, we need to find ways to be considerate of others and ourselves.
I am considerate of others when I step in to fill a need that I know I can fill.
I consider myself when I say no to something because I know it will burn me out to take on another obligation.
I am considerate of others when I take the time to listen to how they are feeling.
I am considerate of myself when I remember that my feelings matter and that it is okay to reach out and talk to someone about what I am going through.
I am considerate of others when I apologize because I know I am in the wrong, so I try to rectify the situation.
I am considerate of myself when I don’t swell in a pit of self-pity and remind myself that mistakes are a part of everyday life and I am not perfect.
I am considerate of others when I give graciously because I know God loves a cheerful giver.
I am considerate of myself when I allow others to step into my life when I am going through a difficult time and accept their help and graciousness when it is offered to me.
I am considerate of others when I speak kindly to them in a way that lifts them up.
I am considerate of myself when I speak kindly to myself and remember that I also need to be looked after and cannot perpetually run on empty.
I am considerate of others when I fill their cup with compliments and words of affirmation.
I am considerate of myself when I make sure my cup is full, so I am not hurting others because I am running on empty.
I am considerate of others when I point them to Jesus Christ as the Healer of their heart through my words and actions.
I am considerate of myself when I take time to spend with the Lord in quiet and let Him work on my heart away from all the noise and endless distractions of this world.
We are called to be considerate of others in so many Scriptures, in so many ways. Let me leave you with just a few:
Philippians 4:5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Titus 3:2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
Romans 15:1-3 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”
Philippians 2:3-4 Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Proverbs 21:10A wicked person desires evil; he has no consideration for his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:24People should be concerned about others and not just about themselves.
Kali Dawson graduated from St. Thomas University with a B.A. in English and a Minor in Journalism and Communications. She is a School Teacher, Pilates Instructor, and Mama of two young children and a beautiful 2020 baby. She is married to her real-life Superhero. When she’s not holding small hands or looking for raised hands you will find her writing fervently about faith and family. To read more, you can find her on Facebook at Faith, Family, Freelance.