Recently a friend posted a quote on Facebook from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I found the quote so good I decided to check the book out at our local library and read more. Having been on a journey towards a more emotionally healthy faith over the past nine years (I’m sure I still have a ways to go), I’ve found it to be a very refreshing book. There is much in this book I have experienced in this time and it’s encouraging to find others who have come to similar conclusions.
Whenever I spend time reflecting on a topic like this I often am reminded of the pre-flight safety instructions a person hears when flying on a commercial airliner. During the section about the emergency oxygen masks, passengers are reminded to make sure their own mask is secure before they attempt to help someone else. The logic behind this instruction is simple. If you haven’t made sure you have enough oxygen to survive in an emergency, you won’t last long and won’t be able to help others. So, for their sake, it’s best to take care of your own mask first.
This is sound advice for anyone who has committed their life to serving others to remember. We need to prioritize taking care of ourselves if we are going to be of any use to others. When we are involved in serving others, it’s a challenge to resist the feelings of guilt if we take time for ourselves. If someone comes to us with a request we can feel a compulsion to always say “yes” regardless of the effect on our own lives. In that process it’s easy to neglect the most basic points of self-care, but if we do we will be of no use to those we seek to serve and will begin to resent the very people we say we love.
There are times for self-denial and many in the United States have elevated the level of the “bare necessities” to the level of excess. Still, there are basic boundaries every human needs to put in their lives to operate at their best. So, for the sake of those we seek to serve, let’s remember to make sure our own mask is secure first.