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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Simple Community


It really doesn’t seem that long ago. Remember the days when friends would just pop in? You’d hear a knock at the door and a voice calling out, “Anyone home?”

You’d invite your visitors in and put the kettle on. You’d grab the biscuit tin then sit down for a good chat. There didn’t have to be an invitation weeks in advance giving you enough time to have your house looking like a display home. The only cleaning up would be straightening up a few bits and pieces as you headed towards the door to see who was there.

There used to be a spontaneity about getting together with friends.

Now it all has to be carefully orchestrated so most of the time we just don’t bother.

Our lives have got busier with each family member heading in different directions for a range of activities so it’s probably wise to give a quick call before visiting or to invite friends over but what can we do to reignite that sense of community?

Many times the people who would drop in would be neighbours. They’d walk across the road or down the street for a cuppa and we would drop in at their place. How many people do you know in your own street?

If we run out of ingredients for something we’re making for dinner there are several places in our suburb that we can dash out to for whatever we need at any hour of the day. We just jump in the car and we’re back home with what we need in minutes. It didn’t used to be that way. Shops weren’t always open and not everyone had a car to get to the shops anyway. We’d go next door or over the road and borrow what we needed until shopping day. We’d also lend out whatever our neighbours needed. We’ve lost that reliance on each other and lost community in the process.

Our world is constantly changing and we can’t go back.

It’s tempting to think we should just try to turn back the clock and start doing the things we used to do but that’s not the answer. It’s community we want to regain, not the way we used to see it expressed. The shape of our lives has changed but there’s still a need to connect with others. The old ways don’t work anymore but that doesn’t mean that we can’t experience community.

It’s interesting to note that around 40% of Australians say the place they experience community is the local shopping centre.

If the greatest sense of community that people feel is being in the middle of a sea of nameless faces, we’ve got a lot of work to do to see people fully engage with others and experience a deeper sense of community.

We can’t go back to what was but how can we move forward to regain community? How can we create significant relationships with those around us?

I guess the first step is to realise that relationship is far more important than so much of the stuff we’ve put in its place. What are some practical things that we can do to demonstrate that?

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Who is my neighbour?


Do you know the names of the people who live next door? Would you recognise your neighbours if you saw them at the local shopping centre?

Growing up in the suburbs of Perth, I knew most of the people in our street. We didn’t live in each other’s pockets but there was a great sense of community, children playing with those from across the road and up the street, tea and biscuits or maybe a beer together for the adults. It was relatively common to be sent to a neighbour’s house to ask for an ingredient or two if mum discovered she’d run out half way through a recipe, with neighbours dropping in from time to time to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever else they needed.

Things have certainly changed.

A survey of a thousand Australians, conducted by Jigsaw Research on behalf of Nabo, a social network for neighbourhoods and communities, recently revealed more than 50% of Aussies aren’t connected with their neighbours beyond a chat over the fence. Less than 30% are know their neighbours’ phone number or email. The research also revealed that those who spend more time on social media platforms spend less time with their neighbours, and find it more challenging to reach out to them.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Nabo’s founder and chief executive, Adam Rigby, pointed out that while there’s a desire to know our neighbours, we’re just not that good at it.

It typically takes about five years for people to properly get to know their neighbours, Mr Rigby said, often developing over a series of minor exchanges while taking out the bins or coming home from work. But modern families were often too busy to make these connections, he said, and moves toward higher-density living reduced the opportunities for neighbours to meet.

Mr Rigby also pointed to safety concerns among those who were alienated from their neighbourhood. The research found almost one in three women did not feel safe walking down their street, while 76 per cent of respondents said knowing their neighbours better made them feel more secure.

These days we find garage doors opening, cars disappearing inside, then the door closing again as those around us enter their secret worlds. Sure, we wave if we’re leaving our houses at the same time, but most of the time we don’t really know who we’re waving at.

I know some of our neighbours but most might as well be living on the other side of the world. Come to think of it, there are many people living half way around the world that I know far better than those around me. I wouldn’t recognise them if we met on the street and I certainly wouldn’t be invited over for a coffee.

So is this trend a concern or do we just do life differently these days? Do we prefer to live in a community that expects little from us and in which we expect little from others? If someone a few houses away really needed help would they feel confident to approach me? Would I feel confident knocking on their door in an emergency?

It’s been said that good fences make good neighbours, but is it time for some of those fences to come down?

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Who are our new neighbours?

neighbours.jpgDo you know who’s on the other side of your fence?

We don’t seem to chat across the fence or drop in next door for a cup of sugar anymore, but does that mean we’ve lost a sense of neighbourhood. It would seem the answer is yes … and no.

Researchers are saying that while we may not interact with those living in our own street we’ve simply shifted from suburbia to the office. We’re being told that the people we see each day in our workplace have become our new neighbours.

OFFICES are replacing traditional neighbourhoods as people prefer to befriend co-workers instead of those living down the street and busy careers limit opportunities for socialising.

KPMG demographer Bernard Salt said many people opted to talk to their workmates across the office partition rather than chat to their neighbours over the

We’ve only been in our current house for about five months and we haven’t got to know our neighbours very well but we have introduced ourselves to the people either side of us and we wave a cheery hello to others in the street. Still, it’s not quite the same as when I was growing up and we’d wander from house to house with friends in the street.

Do you know the people in your street or do you socialise more with workmates?

A recent survey of 2100 Australian households for NRMA Insurance found nearly half the population never or rarely spoke to their neighbours.

A third of people said they were too busy to get to know the people over the fence and just one in five knew all of their neighbours’ names, the poll

Have we lost something by changing our ‘neighbourhood’? It’s great to have healthy friendships with the people we see each day at work but knowing that you can depend on those in your street and that they can rely on you to watch out for their interests is something that workplace friendships can’t replace.

If you had an emergency at home could you call on the person next door? Do they know that they can call on you if they need help?

Socialising with workmates means we’re more likely to have common interests, after all we work in the same industry, but I wonder if that means that we lose the diversity of connecting with people from quite different waks of life.

What’s your idea of neighbourhood? I’d really appreciate your thoughts. Please leave a comment or two.

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Who is my neighbour?

NSP.jpgDo you remember watching episodes of the old Batman series when you were a kid? I loved seeing Batman and Robin zoom towards the bushes that would drop down allowing the batmobile to enter the secret batcave. No one around knew what went on behind the hedge.

I reckon we’re all living more and more like Batman these days. We drive towards our homes, press the button on the garage door opener, and disappear to the rest of the world as the automatic door closes behind us. Everything we ‘need’ – computers, home theatres and all the rest – are waiting for us inside our secret batcaves. Even if we’ve met our neighbours it’s very rare that we interact with them.

A great new initiative may start to change things for the better as it encourages us to take the lead and start creating connections within our community. The National Street Party is part of Social Inclusion Week (23rd to 29th November) and it is hoped that it will be a catalyst in tackling isolation and loneliness. It’s being spearheaded by Dr Jonathon Welch AM.

While he has had a busy and celebrated musical career, Dr Jonathon Welch first came to prominence for most Australians as the Founding Music Director of the Choir of Hope and Inspiration, which started its life as the Choir of Hard Knocks. Last year he was a judge on Channel Seven’s reality show Battle of the Choirs. He’s been awarded many times by many organizations including being named as Australian of the Year – Local Hero for 2008. Jonathon has also been in great demand as a Performer, Guest Lecturer and Conductor around Australia and has toured Asia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. I spoke to him during my morning programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM today. You can hear our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player atthe bottom of this post.

Do you interact with your neighbours? Do you even know them? What ways have you found to create community in your neighbourhood, workplace or city?


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