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“Is there a time when being kind to yourself might actually be harmful? ‘When NOT to Be Kind to Yourself’ dives into this paradox, examining instances where shortsighted self-kindness can lead to long-term problems. From the perspectives of health, personal goals, and Christian teachings, the article highlights the significance of self-discipline, wisdom, and balance. Discover when self-love must be tempered with judgment and responsibility.”
Everyone strives to be kind to themselves, nourishing and caring for their own well-being. But is it possible that one can be mistakenly kind to oneself? If someone only thinks about immediate satisfaction rather than considering long-term consequences, they could end up doing more harm than good.
Shortsighted Kindness Can Have Long-Term Consequences
Consider, for instance, a diabetic woman who is overweight. If she gives in to her cravings for sweets, she may feel temporarily satisfied but will ultimately worsen her condition. The same principle applies to an alcoholic, who may feel momentarily good from drinking but is speeding up the time when he will have to face the consequences.
Jesus Christ’s Example of Long-Range Perspective
One person who did not succumb to shortsighted kindness was Jesus Christ. He knew that he had to go to Jerusalem, suffer, and be killed, only to rise again on the third day. When Peter, one of his disciples, tried to persuade him to be kind to himself and avoid this fate, Jesus responded strongly, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matt. 16:21-23). Jesus was acutely aware of the long-term picture, even resisting temptation from the Devil early in his ministry (Matt. 4:1-10).
The Importance of Self-Discipline and Long-Range Vision
Having a clear conscience and understanding one’s own needs can help in making wise decisions. It may mean being cautious with food and drink or disciplining oneself in pleasures or recreation to get sufficient rest. Wisdom and good judgment must prevail over the urging of well-meaning friends or societal sayings like “Take it easy!” Instead, heed the words of the greatest Teacher, who said, “Exert yourselves vigorously.” (Luke 13:24).
Life without a meaningful goal can feel empty and unfulfilling. Achieving something worthwhile requires dedication, hard work, and often denying oneself pleasures. For example, a music student aspiring to be a professional musician must dedicate long hours to practice and self-discipline. The same applies to any professional goal; it takes disciplined effort to attain skill and proficiency.
The Christian’s Duty to Exercise Discipline
A dedicated Christian must be vigilant not to be overly kind to oneself when discipline is required. Simple excuses like bad weather can lead to neglecting Christian obligations like attending congregation meetings or active preaching. Distractions from TV programs or captivating reading material can cause one to overlook spiritual needs. These short-term pleasures can have long-term detrimental effects. As the rhyme goes, “When duty and pleasure clash, let pleasure go to smash.” Prioritize duty over pleasure when they conflict.
Unrewarding Unkindness to Oneself
It is possible to be unkind to oneself in a way that doesn’t benefit at all. For example, an unhealthy ambition for wealth can lead to law-breaking or even a nervous breakdown. The pursuit of riches is seen as unkindness to oneself, and even possibly to one’s family, in Scripture: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10).
Balancing Kindness with Responsibility to God and Neighbor
The second great commandment as noted by Jesus Christ—loving your neighbor as yourself—is highly relevant. While we are to love and be kind to ourselves, it should not be done selfishly or unwisely. The first commandment, requiring us to love God with all our being, may often necessitate being “unkind” to ourselves. The balance between loving ourselves and our neighbors, in line with Mark 12:29-31, helps us discern when we should or should not be kind to ourselves. This involves recognizing our obligations to both God and our fellow human beings and acting in a manner that honors those commitments.