When you’re helping others you need a self-care plan for yourself
It was a major storm. A lot of rain had fallen and I had witnessed flooding like I had never seen before. A few days later I was in a drain clearing some of the damage.
I was up and over my knees in silty mud. It wasn’t nice or comfortable as I waded in the mud for probably half an hour. The only thing that really kept me going was the thought of a hot shower and some clean clothes. That mud sure was sticky.
I’ve been in a few drains with hurt people too. They share their stories and some of the details stick.
If you want them to really open up and be honest about the struggle, then to some degree you have to be open to embracing them, metaphorically.
Judith M Gundry-Volf and Miroslav Volf write this
‘An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing.
I open my arms to create space in myself for the other.
The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.
They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me.
In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.
I want them in their openness.
I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’.
Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging.
In Jesus telling the story of the Man in the Ditch, he wasn’t just asking us to provide rescue mission first aid to strangers, he was inviting us to embrace the dirt.
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Luke 10:25-37
The Samaritan, after sensing a compassionate gut move, took action. He climbed into the ditch, embraced the naked dying man with medicinal oil, bandages, then placed him on his donkey and took him to the Inn.
He opened and closed his embrace around the man for that moment of time.
Now, I would like you to put your ‘self’ into the ‘shoes’ of that dying man. What would you feel, sense, think?
Hope, puzzlement, warmth, goodness?
Are you afraid of dirt?
When you enter into the drain and dirt of other people’s lives you are going to get dirty. The stories they tell, the pain of their journey, can get under your skin and grind away at your being. Most of it, you can simply wash off, but some does get under your toenails.
No one in this world is perfectly clean and the more you embrace, the more you smell the dirt.
When I entered that ditch I knew that I had a change of clothes and that a hot shower awaited me.
Never enter another’s life without a self-care/ preservation plan, or you might just drown in the mud.
Self-care plan for going into the ditch
- Ask for Spirit (Holy) to place your mind into a bubble. Imagine this bubble being formed over your mind. Ask Spirit (Holy) that everything that doesn’t need an emotional connection from you to simply flow over you. Imagine much of what they share simply flowing over you.
- Notice the dirt. Don’t avoid the awareness of the stains of other people’s lives. You’re not Teflonman (superman dressed in a Teflon suit). We are invited to ‘weep with those that weep’ Romans 12:15 but please realise that those who weep with those who weep will get tears on their tee shirts. Some of it will stick, and that’s ok, it’s what you do with it that matters
- Have someone you can share the dirt with. Some things that people will share with you might just grab onto you like a leech and suck the life out of you. Sharing them safely with someone who can hold the conversation in confidence is crucial for you to be able to let go of much of the dirt.
- Journal the journey. I heard this quote recently ‘The brain is meant to be a factory, not a warehouse’ Mike Vardy. Are you storing some dirt that you don’t need to? Perhaps a journal might be a safe place for you to process it and shift it. Perhaps you could share the journal with your safe person.
- Prayerfully intercede. Bring the situation to God and ask for help. I like the idea of creating a picture in your mind of you bringing that person to Jesus. Perhaps it’s you bringing the accumulated dirt in your life to him for him to carry.
- Don’t should over yourself. I should have done this or that. ‘Shoulding’ won’t get you anywhere other than being in a vicious loop of self-condemnation.
- Care for yourself. Do nice soul regenerating activities. Do you have some hobbies? What about exercise and taking the dog for a walk. What is it that fills your cup?
If you are going to get into the ditch, where the dying man lies, then you need to have a self-care plan.
Quotes to consider
- Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
- People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri Nouwen
- We know God’s love because He did something, not because He felt something. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer and leave comment. Click here to leave an anonymous response.
- Are you afraid of the dirt of other people’s lives? Why?
- Do you have a problem in allowing yourself to have self-care?
- How do you respond to the quote by Judith and Miroslav Volf?
Image cc: Lirinya