A pastor friend recently shared her heartache over a congregant who felt he needed to apologize for prioritizing his own mental health. The question he struggled with, “Is self-care selfish?” This query often surfaces in the broader culture as well. Is seeking out the healthiest choices a responsibility or a vice, an expression of maturity or self-absorption? In many arenas, self-care can be as controversial as other forms of caring for the self, such as birth control and sexual exploration. However, viewing self-care through a spiritual framework may alter the perception entirely. This essay will explore self-care through the lens of faith, as a means to clarify understanding and address common misgivings.

Defining Self-Care

To start, let’s define self-care as the intentional practice of creating balance in your physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual wellbeing, both in daily life as well as in times of stress or crisis.

The key words here are intentional and balance, which are essential for deflecting common critiques surrounding self-care. In the Christian context, intentionality suggests God’s presence in our stewarding of our own needs—an idea compatible with the beliefs that humans are created in the divine image and are called to be “imagers” of God through responsible living. Balance acknowledges self-care does not overshadow other crucial commitments, such as working, caregiving, or community involvement; instead, it helps us carry out those commitments more faithfully through proper fueling.

Four Dangers When Neglecting Self-Care

Neglecting self-care entails various consequences:

1) Decreased capacity to give to others: Nurturing yourself is not selfish; rather, it’s a demonstration of love for self and others. Think of airplane safety instructions reminding passengers to put their oxygen mask on first before helping others—a scenario designed to make the point that taking care of yourself also benefits others who rely on you. When you are well taken care of, you are able to better carry out acts of mercy, compassion, and generosity.

2) Decay of mental health: Like our vehicles, regular maintenance ensures optimal performance and longevity. When we ignore emotional maintenance, we risk fatigue, depression, anxiety, resentment, burnout, and dysfunctional ways of being with others.

3) Disconnection from God: Scripture speaks of God’s invitation to find rest and refreshment with God—even commanding Sabbath observance. God made us with limits, such as the need for rest and care, in order to draw closer to a loving Creator in trust that our needs would be met. If we bury self-care in shame or busyness, we create a barrier between ourselves and God.

4) Unchecked harmful patterns: If we ignore or deny our needs, they often assert themselves in unexpected ways—such as through illness or relational conflict. Prevention is wise medicine.

Doing Self-Care Right

To ensure self-care stays healthy and balanced, consider these guidelines:

1) Prioritize spiritually-oriented actions: Spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, attending church or worship gatherings, journaling your faith journey, connecting with those who share your spiritual beliefs—these practices help fill your emotional tank in a spiritually enriching way.

2) Seek an appropriate mix: Strive for a blend of self-care actions, both physical and nonphysical, and shift activities according to your shifting needs. Physical needs (dietary choices, sufficient rest, exercise, medical care) are obvious but don’t neglect emotional wellness, which might include talking with trusted friends, seeking professional counseling if warranted, identifying negative thought patterns, and cultivating leisure activities that refresh you. Spiritual self-care ensures that your needs don’t overshadow your responsibilities, while social self-care includes practices such as connecting with friends, engaging in group hobbies, or participating in community activities.

3) Practice discernment: Choose self-care activities aligned with your values and meaningful to you as a whole person, so they contribute to your overall growth. Be prepared to adjust actions as circumstances change. If self-care becomes a means to avoid other commitments or starts to dominate your schedule, it might be time to reflect on your practices and reorient your goals.

4) Share the journey: Asking for help when we need it shows vulnerability, a human trait Jesus modeled continually through his relationships with others. Talking with family members, friends, or professionals about your self-care pursuits is wise, especially when feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about how to proceed.


Self-care isn’t selfish but rather part of a divine design where humans steward their personal wellbeing, fulfilling their responsibility to love God and neighbor as their highest calling. Done wisely, self-care increases our capacity to give of ourselves to others while fostering intimacy with God. May we all pursue self-care with humility and courage, recognizing the importance it plays in our spiritual journey.

Discuss these ideas with fellow believers in your church small group. Download our free discussion guide today! Click below to download your copy now!

Copyright © 2019 Kimberly KnightSoulShepherding®. Originally posted October 7, 2019 on The High Calling blog. Used with permission. All rights reserved.