I hear all this talk about doing the things that make me come alive, but… isn’t that selfish? I mean, those things are just for ME. They don’t help anyone else. Shouldn’t I be spending that time feeding the hungry? Or maybe just feeding my kids? Or maybe I’m supposed to do just enough of the stuff that feeds me to give me energy to serve others?
I guess what I’m asking is, how do I justify spending time and energy on myself? Should I? Is it possible to see those things as not selfish?
I want to start by talking about the ocean, because I think we can all agree that the ocean is not selfish, even if it does spend its days rolling around in the sun.
See, the ocean holds a whole bunch of things within itself.
There are dolphins swimming in that ocean, for example, and they need the water to survive. The ocean needs its water for the dolphins.
And not only for the dolphins, right? A whole bunch of things need the ocean water: coral and fish and seaweed and lobsters and colonies of, I don’t know, sea turtles.
The ocean needs its water for all of that. But it also needs water because without water it wouldn’t be an ocean. It would be something else, something entirely different. Something dry.
Could that be useful in its own way? Well, sure.
But it wouldn’t be an ocean.
Part of your job on earth is to figure out: What’s your water?
What lights you up, what wakes you up, what makes you come alive? Because those things help make you who you are. I would even say those are the places you meet God, and meeting God can’t help but change you for the better.
I’m going to go a little bit spiritual on you here and suggest that God actually wants you to be a whole, healthy, thriving human being—not because you are a tool that can be used to serve other people, but just because God made and loves YOU. You matter.
I hear you that you want to help the world, and that is good and that is necessary—and at the same time, I want you to remember that you are part of that world. You are not separate. You being healthy is part of the world being healthy. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
The ocean was made to be the ocean, you were made to be you—and BEING THAT PERSON is part of what you’re here to do.
We need you to be who you were made to be.
I’m not saying you should forget about the rest of your life and only do the things that light you up from here on out. But I am saying to make a little room in your life this week to do something that makes you come alive, and then see how you show up in the world afterwards.
This doesn’t have to be a huge assignment. If beauty lights you up, make a point of catching the sunsets. If creating is like breathing for you, carve out one chunk of time for making. If being in nature is your thing, take a walk. And then notice who you are and how you are afterwards.
Because here’s what I’ve noticed.
People who are making space for their own health and wholeness want that same health and wholeness for everyone. Coming more alive and being more compassionate go together.
I think that’s because doing what lights you up reminds you that you matter. (And you do.) When you know it deep down in your bones—that you matter, not because of what you do, not because of how hard you work or how much you give up, just because you were made to be you, on purpose, here, now—you can’t help but realize that everyone else matters just because they were, too.
The opposite is true, too: when we’re stingy with ourselves, it’s hard to be generous toward others. (This might be part of that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” idea Jesus talked about.) When we treat ourselves—and the things that light us up—with suspicion, it’s hard to trust that others are making the best decisions they can. You can’t shut yourself down and expect to stay open to the world around you.
So is it selfish?
To do what lights you up? Of course it can be. Anything can become a selfish act. But I trust that the still, small voice inside you knows the difference between nourishing your spirit and keeping everything for yourself. I trust that you’ll listen for that voice to help you see the needs around you and the needs of your own soul, too. I’m not even worried about this.
(And anyway, we’re not buying the message that taking care of yourself means you have to buy more and keep up with the neighbors. And we don’t believe the message that there’s not enough to go around, either. That’s not lighting anything up. That’s a distraction.)
You do what you do as a way of living out your belief that you matter, and so does everybody else. Because people who come alive want to help everyone else to live, too. People who come alive have life to share. Do that. Be who you were made to be. Find your water. xo.