I’m driving to the library today when my 4-year old in the back seat says, “Mom, do you know why things that make you healthy hurt?” Ethan’s thinking shots, since he’s had to have a number of vaccines in preparation for starting kindergarten next month. Vaccines aren’t the first things that come to my mind.
“Some healthy things don’t hurt,” I think. Spinach is healthy, and there’s no pain in a salad of spinach leaves, walnuts, strawberries with a little oil and vinegar mixed in. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Walking is healthy, and the simple motion of putting one foot in front of the other, up and down the hills in our neighborhood, clears my mind and calms me. Laughter – the kind that comes from the depths of my being – is very healthy (even when it’s triggered by a scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). All healthy, all enjoyable rather than painful.
Die to self. Ouch. To be truly physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, I must die to self. Daily.
As a parent, I’m supposed to be consistent in my discipline, patient when interrupted for the seventh time in as many minutes, and able to understand the inner workings of the pre-teen mind. The one thing I do well is love and support. But I worry that the things my kids will remember are the times I lost my temper or nagged them to “shut the door” for the 8,623rd time. I’m reminded the healthy thing to do – this dying to self – means I don’t waffle on the consequences of my kids’ mistakes even when it’s easier to let them get away with it. And I choose to be truly engaged when they need my attention and approval, even when I’m tired. And I decide that, rather than using a sharp tone of voice, I will speak with kindness, especially during moments of stress.
In the business world, there are times when I have to choose humility. I don’t like it, especially when I believe I’m right. But, when I’m at my best, I choose to find a way for all involved to work towards a common goal, even if I’d rather take the helm and steer the ship alone.
This dying to self does need to be practiced daily, even though it’s incredibly difficult for me. Letting go of my need to control and my selfish wants in favor of unity with God, my family, and friends is a struggle at times. Sometimes it just plain hurts to surrender. But I realize – even as I’m writing this – that I can die to self without losing myself. There are moments of conviction when I know I must stand my ground and take care of myself. And there are other times, the majority, when giving up what I want contributes to a much healthier outcome. Somehow, my youngest knew this, and I’m glad he decided to share this bit of wisdom with me. “Out of the mouths of babes…”