Are You Being Kind to Yourself?
ARE you being kind to yourself? The answer to that question is not so simple as it seems. Thus American Associated Press writer H. Boyle once wrote: “Man has one talent that separates him from the other animals—the art of making himself miserable. He is the only animal that will turn his back on joy and make himself deliberately unhappy. He is the only animal that invents his own troubles, manufactures unnecessary woes, and makes an industry out of feeling sorry for himself. He is the only animal for whom too much is never enough. . . . One of the things he yearns for most—prosperity—is the thing he seems the least able to stand.”—Easton, Pennsylvania, Express, March 3, 1959.
Of course, there are some who, due to religious superstition, do not even believe in being kind to themselves. Among such are the sadhus or holy men of the Orient and the ascetics of Christendom. Their course, however, finds justification in neither the Bible nor reason, for they neither please God nor best serve their fellow man by following such a course. God’s Word implies that we should be kind to ourselves, for we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. More than that, it condemns “a severe treatment of the body.”—Mark 12:29-31; Col. 2:20-23.
Others fail to be kind to themselves because of ignorance. For decades many smoked cigarettes inveterately, not knowing the relationship between cigarette smoking and a host of physical ills. Now, however, this relationship has been so firmly established that such leading specialists as Dr. Ochsner of the Tulane University Medical School and Dr. Sara Jordan of the famed Lahey Clinic will not treat patients with stomach ills who refuse to quit smoking cigarettes, while the American Medical Association rejects all tobacco advertising for its professional journals. Since the cigarette industry is doing a thriving business in spite of all this evidence, it follows that many are still being unkind to themselves because of either stubbornness or selfishness.
In fact, it is in yielding to selfishness, in big things or little ones, that most persons manifest that in certain ways they are not kind to themselves. The man who makes crime his career, who lives in continual fear of being apprehended, killed by the police or murdered by his criminal associates, is not being kind to himself. Neither are the women who make vice their career. They are a most pitiable lot, living in fear of detection, without hope and often contemplating suicide. By choosing vice as the easy way to earn high wages they are not at all kind to themselves.
But our selfishness need not be regarding gross sins to convict us of not being kind to ourselves. If we carry around considerable excess weight or suffer any one of a multitude of physical ills that are caused by self-indulgence in food, drink or other physical pleasures, we are not being kind to ourselves. If we cannot turn off the television set when we ought to be going to bed, if we cannot break away from a party in time to get a decent night’s rest, and as a result suffer a miserable morrow just for that hour or two of additional pleasure, we are not being kind to ourselves. Neither are sedentary workers kind to themselves if they love ease so much as to wholly neglect exercise, thereby not only inviting heart trouble but also lowering their resistance to disease in general.
If we would be kind to ourselves, we must also be able to say No to our neighbor when he suggests an unwise course of action. Often because of mistaken kindness on his part he will urge us to self-indulgence. Or he may do it because it flatters his vanity to influence us in a course of folly. Or it may even be that he has an ulterior motive in coaxing us, against which we are warned at Proverbs 23:6, 7. So do not be unkind to yourself just to be thought a good fellow. Stop when you have had enough. Stick to what you know is right and best, regardless of what others may think or say.
Even our best friends may be mistaken. Thus the Scriptures tell that on one occasion Jesus warned his disciples as to what lay in store for him: persecution and death and a resurrection. “At this Peter took him aside and commenced raising strong objections to him, saying: ‘Be kind to yourself, Master; you will not have this destiny at all’ But, turning his back, he said to Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumblingblock to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.’” Peter meant well, but Jesus knew better.—Matt. 16:22, 23.
Being kind to ourselves means not only being able to say No to both ourselves and others, but it also means saying Yes when duty calls. Why be miserable struggling with a guilty conscience when with a great deal less effort we can have peace of mind and even joy by doing what we are supposed to do. Wisely, therefore, God’s Word urges us to “hold a good conscience.”—1 Pet. 3:16.
Being kind to yourself also involves the matter of contentment. Is the man who drives himself and others ruthlessly to satisfy his selfish ambition kind to himself? The Bible answers: “However, 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. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” Clearly one who ‘stabs himself all over with many pains’ is not being kind to himself!—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
If we would be kind to ourselves we must cultivate “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency,” or contentment, for these truly are great gain. Having brought nothing into this world we can take nothing out, so having food, clothing and shelter, let us be content, the apostle further counsels.—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
God the Creator expects us to be kind to ourselves, for he wants us to be happy. A long-range view of things will help us to exercise moderation and be content, remembering that “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Prov. 10:22