I still remember my youth choir leader telling a young, impressionable me to pray for myself last. I told my mother and she said, roughly, “then what will you have to give anything else.”
I believe so many faiths have evolved over time to say that we are innately greedy and selfish and that we must teach ourselves to put ourselves last. And while many faiths have principles that encourage us to think of the needs of others, to be giving, and to focus less on material things, they do not teach this principle of self-abasement that we see today.
I remember hearing a great speaker discuss the bodies of water listed in the Bible. She discussed how the Dead Sea receives but does not give and it is appropriately named, while the desert streams give and give without receiving; you will not find them on a map for they dry up quickly. The key is to give as you receive in a cycle that respects both your own needs and others’, then you will flow with purpose like the mighty rivers, like the river Jordan.
Many of those reading this, like myself, may live in a very “privileged” portion of the world, where even the poor more often than not have housing, food, and Facebook. I spoke with someone today who said that he was told (via a sermon) that people in this socioeconomic climate are naturally selfish. His words struck a chord in me: an angry one.
I hope, that every person reading these words will never be made to feel that they can not aspire to more, but rather will reach for their dreams- for their own sense of enlightenment and purpose, but also so that they may share those benefits with others.
It is okay to take care of yourself, for after all, when you are your best you are best able to make a difference in the lives of others. So go for that promotion, take that day off, get that mani, dance wildly in your car, climb that mountain, take care of you.
I would ask you, what do you need to do to take care of yourself today? What can you do to give back to others? What is one thing you can do today to appreciate the value of the non-material, in a way that enlightens rather than shames. These are the ways we can be our best self, help meet the needs of others, and live a life of gratitude and meaning.