Self love and oxygen masks

The whole ‘love yourself’ thing has never sat quite right with me. I understand what people are saying when they suggest we should love ourselves but it often feels a bit self-indulgent to me. You’re probably a lot smarter than me and have figured out the balance.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians promoting the idea of loving ourselves over the years. They base their thoughts on passages like the following where Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment.

…. But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

The thinking goes that if we’re to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, we first have to love ourselves. What Jesus said presupposes that we love ourselves. I can’t argue with that but I still feel a bit uncomfortable.

So why do I have trouble with promoting the notion of loving ourselves?

Of course I love myself. Too much probably. I feed myself, look after myself, and think way too highly of myself and my needs a lot of the time.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. – Ephesians 5:29,30 (ESV)

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen many people use the concept of loving themselves simply as an opportunity for an unhealthy focus on their own needs and wants. When Jesus spoke about loving ourselves it was in the immediate context of loving others. He said we’re to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’. Some people get the whole ‘love yourself’ bit but never advance to loving their neighbour.

Maybe I just need to change the way I think about why I should love myself.

I’ve recently been thinking about the airline safety spiel. As well as telling you about how to do up and undo your seatbelt and how count the rows to your nearest exit, they always stress that in the event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure, you should fit your own oxygen mask first before helping others. While I’ve seen others use that idea to talk generally about looking after yourself, I think there’s a subtle but important difference when we use the oxygen mask analogy.

There’s a sense of urgency in the airline mask thing.

Yes, you need to put your mask on first before helping someone else but in that moment, as the plane starts to shake and the pressure drops, when the masks fall from the ceiling of the aircraft, you take the action you need to take for yourself before immediately turning your attention to others. You don’t sit there adjusting the mask until it feels ‘just right’. You don’t have some ‘me time’ with your mask, you grab it, put it on, and then get on with the job of assisting those around you who are struggling.

If someone I loved was sitting next to me in an aircraft emergency I’d get my mask on as quickly as I could so that I’d be best prepared to help them. Even during the act of securing my own mask my thoughts would be about getting oxygen for the person in the seat next to me.

Some people certainly do try to help others without caring for their own needs to their own detriment. They manage to fumble around and get oxygen sorted for everyone else but they’re left gasping for breath. That’s not how it should work.

On the other hand, if we focus on ‘loving ourselves’ until we feel sufficiently ‘loved up’, we’ll spend more and more time looking out for number one.

It’s another one of those times in life where we need to find balance.

We should think well of ourselves without putting ourselves above others. We need to ensure our own oxygen supply so that we can serve others. We shouldn’t think too highly or too little of ourselves. Yes, we should love ourselves but love should never be self satisfying. Love should be bigger than that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3,4 (ESV)

I’d love to read your thoughts. Leave me a comment or two. Do you think I’m on the right track? Is it about balance? Let me know.

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Soundtrack of My Life – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Soundtrack of my LifeThis is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life.

You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. You’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too.

You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn turned 71 yesterday so I figured I should highlight one of his songs today. I enjoy a lot of Cockburn’s music, much of it about human rights, environmental issues, politics and spirituality.

This song is a favourite, mainly for one line. “Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”. In some very small way I believe that’s the opportunity I have working with Compassion. There’s still a lot of darkness out there so I’m going to keep kicking.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This vibrant skin — this hair like lace
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime —
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
And we’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

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Lust, Romance or Love?


It’s Valentine’s Day and people around the world are celebrating their love for each other in a variety of ways …. but what is love?

The messages are confusing. Is it a deep sense of caring? Is it all about lust? Sex? Romantic feelings? Sacrifice for others? Is it emotional or even chemical? Is it a combination of some of these factors? All of them? None of them? What is love? (Of course whenever anyone asks ‘what is love’ there are many of us who immediately respond in our minds, ‘baby don’t hurt me’ in honour of Haddaway’s early nineties song.)

Even if you don’t consider yourself a religious person it’s worth looking at what Paul wrote about love around 2000 years ago. I reckon what he had to say still holds up pretty well when you’re trying to define a word that has attracted so many meanings over the years.

1 Corinthians 13

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (New Living Translation)

When I compare the way I love others to those words I realise that I’m a million miles off the mark but it’s a wonderful standard and one worth striving for every day.

When we describe love as simply a feeling, even a very strong or intense feeling, there’s no security that it will last because feelings come and go. When we experience love as a commitment to seeking the best for someone else, knowing that they’re committing to the same for us, there’s a security that continues even though the feelings wax and wane.

On this Valentine’s Day I certainly hope that you’ll be able to share those wonderful, intense, romantic feelings that come with being ‘in love’ but I wish even more for you. I wish for you a commitment that continues through the best and even the worst of times. I wish you love.

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Better Than Happy

More Than Happy

Is ‘happy’ really the best we’ve got?

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months. But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there.

I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2016.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2016 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2016.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2016.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2016 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2016.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2016.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2016 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

(This post was first published on the 1st of January 2014.)

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Please Don’t Panic


Financial markets across the world are plummeting. China has been driving economic growth way beyond its own borders for many years, but with the Chinese economy faltering and falling, investors all over the world are getting nervous and billions upon billions of dollars have been lost. Investors are understandably nervous which is likely to trigger further losses on world money markets. To say that things look grim is a massive understatement.

I’m not qualified to make too many comments on matters financial but can I ask you, can I plead with you, please don’t panic?

One of the biggest reasons I’m asking you not to panic is because I remember the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. That crisis brought on the Global Food Crisis. Higher prices around the world put even the basics of life, such as food, out of the reach of those who had the least to lose.

In 2008 I visited Haiti with Compassion Australia and I saw the result of the financial and food crises. I saw rioting in the streets of Port au Prince. People were desperate to find a way to put any kind of food on the table for their families … but there was no food. People were feeding their families dirt.

I understand that at such times we tend to tighten our belts and discard excess spending. Again, can I plead with you not to panic and make hasty decisions. Don’t consider that giving to those in need is excess spending. Those with the least are already at breaking point. If you are already giving to alleviate poverty you are probably the only way they’re staying alive. Please don’t think of giving to aid agencies as an extra. It’s not an extra. It’s life or death.

I’ve seen many times that the first thing that disappears in uncertain financial times is giving … and I get that. We all want to ensure the security of those we love and sometimes we do need to make tough decisions. All I ask is that when considering how you tighten your belt, you put everything on the table and make wise decisions. Don’t let your giving be the first thing that you automatically cut.

Sometimes there are no changes at all in our circumstances but the nervousness around us causes us to close our heart and our wallet to opportunities. That’s fear.

Don’t let fear direct your actions. If you’re a Christian you know that perfect love casts out fear. The choice is yours to live in love or fear. I pray that you live in love.

Please don’t panic. Please don’t let the poorest of the poor suffer even more.

This afternoon I’m heading to Indonesia to visit churches there which are partnering with Compassion. I want to be able to assure those I meet who are living in poverty that the world knows their need and that they will not be forgotten. If you’d like to live out of love instead of fear, please consider sponsoring a child today through Compassion.

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