Posted by Rhett Smith: I think we that we are often living in a Christian culture that believes when we put others first we must not think about ourselves at all in the equation.  To think of ourselves may illicit comments from others around like, “You are…..self-absorbed, self-centered, not outwardly focused….etc.” At all costs we hope to avoid the label of being called “selfish.”

I understand that as Christians we are to continually think of others for that’s what Christ commanded us when pressed by the Pharisees to tell them what the greatest commandment in the Law was.  Jesus responded with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

But He also commanded us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’

How am I to love my neighbor and think of others if I don’t even love myself and think of myself?

In order for us to love others we must love ourselves.  In order for us to serve others we must love ourselves.  It is out of this self-love that grace flows in order that we can love those around us and continue to keep our eyes on the those who are in need of the grace that we so desire to extend.  But the extension of grace in other’s lives begins with the living out of grace in our own lives.

Too many leaders live unhealthy lives because they believe the lie that in order to adequately love others and put others before them they must exclude themselves in the process.  This is most noticeable in the lack of healthy boundaries many leaders have in their personal and work lives.  Their lack of boundaries and, therefore, care of themselves (self-care) is glaringly absent.  When we do not adequately care for ourselves and set healthy boundaries we cannot care for and give to others.  It’s not possible.  Sure, maybe for a season, but not long term. Before long you will be burned out.

I remember when I was in my final year of my MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary.  I was doing a research for a Ph.D. class in Practical Theology on the issue of sexual ethics in pastoral ministry.  In all my research what I found to be a glaring truth was that pastors who didn’t adequately care for themselves by setting healthy boundaries and fostering a life of self-care were the most susceptible to affairs and sexual infidelity in ministry.  They had thought that as long as they focused on graciously helping others they would be okay.  But they forgot to practice loving themselves and fostering grace in their own lives.

When we don’t begin by looking at our own lives and the work of God in it, we cannot venture out into the lives of others.  If God sent His only Son to die for my sins, then He must have thought I was important enough.  This love and grace of God begins and is affirmed in my own life.  It is then that I move out to those around me and let the overflow of that grace and love extend to others.