By Michael Taft
How many times have you heard: “If we could all be a little more helpful — a little more attuned to others’ needs — the world would be a much better place?” I know I have heard that countless times.
For the most part, the statement is true. We do need to be aware of others and how they feel. We do need to help out our neighbors. We most definitely need to go out of our way for others. But what happens when you go so far out of the way for someone who is lost that you lose yourself in the process? Or what happens when you reach out to so many different people that you stretch yourself so far that you can’t regain your original shape? That’s when selflessness turns into self-sabotage.
It can be so easy to help others through hard times and completely forget that you are going through a rough patch. Jesus asks in Matthew chapter 7, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Although Jesus is talking about judging your brothers and sisters, it can also be applied to our own self care. Why are you caring for the problems in your brother’s eye, when you have major problems you are dealing with yourself? You can’t help others to your full extent if you are bagged down with major problems yourself.
Before you reach out to others, look into yourself and ask, “Am I in a position where I can help or is this going to be too much?” There is no shame in realizing that you are in no position to help and stepping back. Self-preservation is just as noble as selflessness.
I’ve never been in a war or even been anywhere near a war, but I most definitely know that when you notice you are outgunned, outmaneuvered and outmanned, you don’t continue pressing forward. You fall back, save your energy, recuperate and think of a plan. This is no different for ourselves. Sometimes you need to retreat, collect your thoughts and fix what’s broken so you can advance even further.
Again, being selfless is not bad at all. It is very beneficial, and Jesus even says to have the trait, but when it interrupts your ability to look after yourself, then it becomes dangerous. Maybe being selfish once in a while is not so bad after all.