The holiday season is here. Like me, your focus is likely shifting to all of the needs and expectations around you. You can quickly fall into painful patterns of pleasing everybody else — only to find yourself exhausted and running on empty.
That’s why I want to invite you to pause, take a deep breath, and check in with yourself:
- What do you want from this Advent season?
- What needs are you dying to have met?
- What convictions are you aching to protect?
- What step can you take toward honoring a limit?
- What or who will bring out the best of you?
Whenever I talk to people about the importance of focusing on what they need and want, I get pushback like this:
- “But... isn’t that selfish?”
- “Didn’t Jesus teach us to deny ourselves?”
- “Isn’t it good to be selfless?”
My answer is this: there is a big difference between selfhood and selfishness. Furthermore, being selfless is not always the right choice.
Here is one way to illustrate the differences:
SELFISHNESS SELFHOOD SELFLESSNESS
It’s all about me. It’s about you and me. It’s all about you.
Selfhood is rooted in the idea that you were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). You bear the image of God inside your soul. You are God’s handiwork, created to do good in this world (Ephesians 2:10).
Uncovering a deep sense of yourself doesn’t just “happen.” And it’s anything but superficial. In fact, a healthy sense of self is something you develop, with care and intention, in partnership with God’s Spirit. Selfhood starts by facing yourself honestly. It includes acknowledging what’s hard and celebrating the gifts you’ve been given.
Selfhood is necessary to make wise decisions, show up with integrity, and create the rhythms you need to stay healthy — especially during the holiday season. It’s not being selfish, and it’s also not being a doormat. It’s an understanding that in any relationship, two people have perspectives that matter, and you are one of those people.
In fact, developing a sense of self is the most foundational step to setting healthy boundaries with other people. Without selfhood, your decisions are driven by guilt and fear. You take the path of least resistance or work overtime to please everyone else. You prioritize the expectations of other people instead of honoring your own authentic wants and needs.
You don’t show up as the best of who you are.
You don’t live out of the best of who God created you to be.
The Example of Jesus
Jesus gave us an amazing example of selfhood during His short time on earth. In fact, Jesus’ strong sense of self empowered Him to sustain healthy boundaries. He demonstrated a clear pattern of letting His yes be yes and His no be no (Matthew 5:37), whether He was taking time for Himself or spending it with other people.
When you live from a strong sense of self, your yes and your no become strong, clear, and powerful.
Consider some of the following examples:
- Jesus said yes to asking for help (Mark 14:32–34).
- Jesus said yes to choosing friends carefully (Luke 6:12–16).
- Jesus said yes to honoring His emotions (John 11:35; Mark 3:5; Luke 22:44).
- Jesus said yes to developing His potential (Luke 2:46).
- Jesus said yes to sticking to His convictions (Luke 4:1–13).
As a result of the foundational ways in which Jesus claimed His identity, talents, and purpose, He was also able to say no when it was needed. Here are a few examples.
- Jesus said no to being “on” all the time (Matthew 14:23–24).
- Jesus said no to pleasing and performing (Mark 15:1–5).
- Jesus said no to toxic behavior (Matthew 23:13–36; Luke 11:37–54).
- Jesus said no to manipulation (Matthew 4:1–11).
- Jesus said no to bullies and abusers (Matthew 18:6; John 8:1–11).
As you can see from His example, Jesus was no doormat. When Jesus said to “deny yourself” (Matthew 16:24–26), He understood the difference between denying your selfishness and denying your selfhood — your God-given, image-bearing self, which is your soul made to shine who God is through your life.
If these words resonate with you, can I encourage you to get curious this holiday season:
What are some ways you have learned to stay hidden? What are some messages you have picked up, such as:
“It’s better to stay small.”
“I shouldn’t feel angry or sad.”
“I should never think of myself.”
What is a new message God might be inviting you to consider instead?
What if walking with Jesus this Christmas means to learn how to say yes to reclaiming your God-given light?
Adapted from Chapter 1 of The Best of You, by Dr. Alison Cook.
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Does this make you uncomfortable? That’s not a surprise because following Jesus’ example is often uncomfortable! What do you want from this Advent season? Come share with us or the answers to Dr. Cooks questions above. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily