When NOT to Be Kind to Yourself
WHO does not try to be kind to himself? And who does not appreciate the kindness of others? Nobody ever hated his own flesh, but he feeds and cherishes it. However, could there be such a thing as being mistakenly kind to oneself? Yes, that could be the case if one took a shortsighted view of matters rather than a long-range view.
For example, take the overweight woman diabetic. It is folly for her to indulge her craving for sweets. By being temporarily kind to herself she makes matters worse in the long run. The same is true of the alcoholic. Being shortsightedly kind to himself, he continues to drink and so hastens the day of reckoning.
One who did not let himself be influenced in a course of shortsighted kindness to himself was none other than Jesus Christ. On one occasion he told his disciples what lay ahead of him, showing them “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up.” Upon hearing this, the apostle Peter “took him aside and commenced rebuking him, saying: ‘Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.’ But, turning his back, he said to Peter: ‘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.
Clearly, Jesus Christ felt very strongly about the matter. Otherwise he would not have used such an emphatic gesture and such strong words. He doubtless appreciated that Peter was here tempting him to follow the line of least resistance, to take the easy course, even as the Devil himself tried to tempt Jesus in a similar way at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.—Matt. 4:1-10.
Yes, an enlightened conscience may tell you that you must be abstemious at the table as to food and drink. Or, after much trial and error, you may have come to the conclusion that you must discipline yourself as to pleasures or recreation so as to get sufficient rest or sleep. If so, then you will want to hold to what you know is best for you and not let well-meaning friends cause you to stray from the narrow path of wisdom and good judgment. The world has a saying, “Take it easy!” But a true Friend of mankind and the greatest Teacher that ever lived on earth said just the opposite. In counseling his followers, he told them: “Exert yourselves vigorously.”—Luke 13:24.
In fact, life is empty and vain without a worthwhile goal. And nothing worth while is achieved without earnest disciplined effort. A music student who sets before himself the goal of playing in a symphony orchestra or of becoming a concert musician cannot be kind to himself when it comes to practicing. He must spend long hours practicing, concentrating, disciplining himself, denying himself many pleasures if he is to attain his goal. The same is true to a greater or lesser extent of any other professional goal that one might set for oneself. Disciplined effort must be put forth if skill and proficiency are to be achieved.
In particular must the dedicated Christian be on guard against being too kind to himself when he should be exercising discipline. How easy it is to let inclement weather serve as an excuse for staying away from meetings of the Christian congregation or from having an active share in the work of preaching and making disciples! A TV program may beckon one to neglect the obligations of the Christian ministry. Popular periodicals or novels may prove so absorbing as to cause one to neglect one’s spiritual needs. All such short-range kindnesses to oneself are bound to have long-range harmful effects. The rhyme is to the point, “When duty and pleasure clash, let pleasure go to smash.” Wait for a time when pleasure does not clash with duty.
Could you be unkind to yourself in an unrewarding way? Yes, if you are ambitious to be rich, love of money can goad you on to work, sweat, strain and scheme. It can cause you to break laws or can bring about a nervous breakdown. That such pursuit of riches is being unkind to yourself God’s Word makes clear, for it says: “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.” They stab “themselves all over with many pains.” Truly, to take such a course is being unkind to oneself, if not also to one’s family.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
The second great commandment that Jesus Christ noted—“love your neighbor as yourself”—is very much to the point here. We are to love ourselves. We are to show kindness to ourselves. But we are not to do so selfishly, unwisely. Loving ourselves is qualified by the first commandment, which requires us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Carrying out that commandment will mean time and again being “unkind” to ourselves. And loving ourselves is also qualified by the second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:29-31) If we bear in mind our obligations to our God and our neighbor, we will be able to draw the line between when we should and when we should not be kind to ourselves.