Okay, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I am just going to say it. Because it needs to be said.
To be a good friend to anyone you need to be a good friend to yourself first.
I see that eye roll.
But listen, friend, many of you have been talking to me. You have been telling me of your loneliness or lack of connecting to other women. Some of you have shared deep friendship breakup pain with me. Some of you have told me that life has done such a number on you that not much is left of yourself to give to another human being in the form of friendship.
I want you to know that I get it and I hear you.
And this why, I need to say this. In fact, I tried to talk about this via Facebook Live on Thursday (insert my own eye roll) but technology is evil and never wants to play nice with me.
Back to the issue at hand:
To be a good friend, we must practice self-care.
I know. I know. Self-care sounds so...well...selfish. Friend, I am telling, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Even Jesus practiced self-care.
I heard you gasp.
Let's look at the pattern of his life: Jesus would spend time with people and then He would go away from them to spend time alone with His Father, God. He was practicing self-care! He knew that in order to care for others, He would need to connect to His Father. This would require, taking time out to be by himself.
And no, I am not talking about devotions (reading your bible and praying). I am not even talking a taking a "Sabbath" because "Sabbath" is not something we necessarily do by ourselves.
I am talking about being alone and connecting to something you love... and ultimately connecting to Jesus.
What does self-care look like?
A lot of things.
It could be a bi-weekly pedicure.
It could be a daily habit of taking bubble baths while reading a book.
It could be a nightly walk around the neighborhood.
It could be participating in a pilates class 2x week.
It could be a nap (especially when you are a mother of littles).
It could be stealing away to a coffee shop every Saturday morning to write poetry.
It could be baking a loaf of fresh bread.
It could be anything.
It just needs to be you, plus something you love to do, and time.
If we are not healthy (mind, body, and spirit), we will not empower others because we ourselves will feel drained. Suddenly, that friend's birthday dinner we were asked to attend will feel like a burden. Or when a friend calls to talk about an issue in her life, we will find ourselves too empty to offer her encouragement or advice. Making new friends will become an impossible task because we feel too frazzled or overwhelmed to make enough space in our lives for another person.
We need to take up a rhythm of self-care.
How does Jesus factor into all this?
God designed us with specific personalities, giftings, and desires. Each of us is a unique individual and how we replenish ourselves will look differently from each other. There is a reason why taking a bubble bath while reading a novel is refreshing to you! You were designed to enjoy bubble baths and reading! When we connect to what brings us joy, we can find the connection to Jesus. However, we must be intentional about it. Here are three things I pray when I am practicing self-care:
- Jesus, help me to relax and receive joy as I spend this time alone.
- Jesus, talk to me about my heart. How am I doing?
- Jesus, talk to me about the people in my life. How are they doing and what can I do to help them?
This may surprise you, but I have found profound spiritual insight in the midst of manicure. Jesus has spoken to me through a set of french gels nails and I am not ashamed to tell you that.
Caring for ourselves is not selfish, but rather it scaffolds for what needs to be in place as we care for the people in our lives - including our friends.
Here is where I am going to give it to you straight:
Some of us are too stressed out and it's making us a lousy friend.
Now, listen, resist the urge to jump in that quicksand of guilt. I am not telling this so you'll get stuck feeling like a failure. I am telling you this so that you will give yourself permission to be by yourself to do something that brings you joy! Your friends need you to take care of yourself. Sometimes, it is the most loving thing you can do for them.
Okay, I have said enough. Now go out and practice self-care! You'll be a better friend for it. I promise.
Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.
Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.