The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Is self-care selfish?

Diets and exercise make big headlines. But there's much more to care of self.

I remember dieting as a young wife and mother. Crazy diets — sometimes only 600 calories a day. Remember the grapefruit diet? Now I know such diets aren't the way to go. Sustainable healthy eating is. I also exercised regularly — but to look good for my husband. That seemed to justify that use of time. Somewhere I'd gotten the message that it was selfish to take time for walking, bike riding or even quiet time for myself when I had to care for a husband and children.

Now I know self-care isn't selfish. It is, in fact, caring for that which God has given me.

Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, former ELCA director of ministerial health and wellness, underscores that thought in The Right Road: Life Choices for Clergy. While written for clergy, this book applies to us all.

Referring to Mark 12:30-31, Halaas refutes the charge that self-care is selfish, saying: "We often forget or deny the need to love ourselves. We will not have the warmth of heart, depth of soul, clarity of mind, or the power of strength to truly love the Lord and actively express love to our neighbors if we don't first love ourselves."

The ELCA Board of Pensions and Division for Ministry in 2003 launched a "Healthy leaders enhance lives" campaign and hired nurse and diaconal minister Tammy Devine last October as wellness coordinator. "We are called to be healers in the world," she says. "We can't do that without Christ as the center of our being."

Devine points to the wholeness wheel developed by the pension unit, stressing the importance of our baptismal call to be a new creation. "To begin with a wellness program, we need to know who we are and Whose we are," she says.

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