Why disregarding your needs is the worst
Via flannel graph, I was taught in Sunday School to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,” a passage from Philippians 2:3–4. While my Sunday School teachers were fabulous, my little-girl brain translated these truths into this false belief system about my needs…
Because others come first, you and your needs come last, if at all. If you care for or think about yourself at any time, you’re selfish and disappointing Jesus.
When we hear truth, we have two options: hear it and discover God’s heart for us OR distort it into a belief that’s a bit of truth drowning in an ocean of lies.
The worst thing is that I distorted the biblical truth from Philippians into these four false principles.
1. Others are better than me.
Achievers, those of us who live the try-hard life and not the grace-filled kind, think in extremes. Extreme thinking causes me to believe that I can value others only when I discount myself.
2. Valuing myself is selfish.
Back in the day, I considered my dreams, hopes, emotions, and opinions as selfishness. Valuing myself meant that I was egocentric, which is clearly the worst.
3. I come after everyone else, so my needs are not important.
Extreme thinking says that the only way to focus on others is to neglect self. I shouldn’t think of what I need or want because that’s selfish. Instead, I am to think of others at the exclusion of my needs.
4. Because my dreams and opinions aren’t important and the dreams and opinions of others are, I’m not like other people.
When we consistently criticize and belittle ourselves but offer kindness to others, we draw what Kristin Neff writes in Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself “artificial boundaries and distinctions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation.”
The way of Jesus is not to disregard ourselves.
Disregarding our own needs is really the worst: the worst for our hearts, for the people we love, and for our relationship with Jesus, who designed us to have needs. I’ve replaced those four lies from my Sunday School days with these truths:
God made all of us in His image.
We have intrinsic value because we’re God’s children… friend, this means you and me! We don’t produce our worth, we receive our worth.
As God’s highest creation, we’re living, breathing testimonies to His goodness and grace. The unconditional love and grace of Jesus supersede our frantic need to compare others to ourselves, i.e. she’s worthy and I’m not.
God created us with emotions, ideas, and gifts that are to be stewarded—not ignored.
Regarding ourselves doesn’t mean being the center of attention. It means valuing all the hopes and dreams God has given us and testifying to the gospel of grace. It means recognizing our thoughts, feelings, and ideas, inspecting them and acting on them when appropriate.
“You are designed to reflect the glory of God, and when you release the fullness of who you most deeply are, we will see God because we’re finally seeing you,” writes Emily P. Freeman in A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live
God designed us to have needs so that we’ll come to Him.
God is the only one without needs. When we ignore our own needs, we ignore an invitation from God to draw close to Him. When we believe that our needs are unimportant, we miss an opportunity to come to God in prayer, to allow ourselves to be loved, and to be comforted. That’s not something we want to miss, friends.
God wove into our being the need for connection.
I’d prefer to sit in a corner and solve my own problems, but that goes against God’s human design plan.
Authors John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick in Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection know this isn’t right, “The attempt to function in denial of our need for others, whether that need is great or small, violates our design specifications. Social connection is a fundamental part of the human operating system.”
Friends, caring for ourselves is the way of Jesus.
My Sunday School teachers taught truth, but I’m still cleaning up the mess of living by my misinterpretation. So let us now replace the distorted truths we’ve fabricated and live by real, biblical truth:
That we are living masterpieces that testify to God’s goodness and grace.
That we reflect God when we live out our design.
That we have needs so our relationship with Him will grow.
And that our design requires connection.
Go in grace and peace, sweet sisters, knowing that caring for you doesn’t exclude caring for others. It simply expands your capacity to love your world and your God in ways you never knew possible.