On J.O.Y…


In Christian-ese, it’s an acronym for: Jesus, Others, and then You.

It’s used to convey the notion that our primary focus should be Jesus, then other people, and lastly – ourselves.

The phrase is used to let many people know that they should not be selfish, and they should put the needs of others ahead of themselves.

I have always hated that acronym. It isn’t the letters, it is their order.

In my life, I have never had trouble taking care of other people before I took care of myself. In fact, I would say that not taking care of myself has been one of my largest struggles. You remember that blog where I avoided going to the doctor for 10 years? And that other one where I never asked for help? Yeah, it’s a problem.

When I was a kid, I can remember packing my mother lunches before she went to work so she would have food to eat. I’d make her an egg salad sandwich, pack her some fruit, and then I’d shower and get ready for school. I was eight.

Taking care of others before I took care of myself is a theme that followed me to other relationships. In eighth grade I had a terrible friendship with a girl named ‘Terri.’ If there was a board game Terri wanted to play, I’d give in. If there was a snack Terri wanted, I’d get it. I’m sure Terri loved having me as a friend, but I did not get much out of the relationship.

In my first few romantic endeavors, I can remember making sure the needs of my significant other were taken care of before I would ever consider myself. With my ex-husband, I remember spending a few months doing all of the housework, working two jobs, and doing all of the laundry because he voiced that he was tired. My needs? Can’t say I thought about them.

Some people are givers. Some people are takers. Many people are a bit of both.

I have found that there are two really big problems with always being the giver.

First, always being a giver allowed me to ignore my own personal needs and problems I should have been addressing. Yeah, I packed my mom lunch because I loved her. But I also packed her lunch because of a deep insecurity that if I did not take care of my mother something bad would happen to her. What? Who knows?

And I took care of so many things for my ex-husband so that I could avoid taking care of my own issues. Lose weight for my health? Why would I do that when I am taking care of a spouse? Spend time in prayer? How can I do that when I am helping all of these friends?

Second, I think my need to take care of others first comes from a deep insecurity that if I do not please other people they will not love me. And if no one loves me, who am I then?

If I pack my mom lunch, she will love me. Right?

If I do everything for my spouse, he will love me. Right?

If I do whatever my friends need, they will like me. Right?

I found out the hard way that nothing you can do will make people like you.

After I got divorced, I lost several of my ‘friends.’ When I moved to Michigan I knew no one, but became friends with two women I thought loved me. When I got divorced these women told me they no longer wanted to be my friend because ‘of my decisions.’

I thought I had done nothing to them. I had been whatever they wanted whenever they needed it. Yet, they could still dump me. I was baffled.

Losing those friends taught me one of the best things I have ever learned. I learned that you have to be yourself and you have to take care of yourself. I could spend my entire life pretending to be some else and do whatever people want, and people can still hate me or leave me. So I might as well be myself and take care of my own needs.

I highly doubt that I am alone on this. In fact, I’d venture to guess that a lot of people take care of others to the detriment of their own needs.

So that annoying acronym. I think we keep Jesus first, because through Christ and our devotion to Him we can understand how we should respond to all things.

Then, You. If we keep in line with Christ, it will guide us to take care of ourselves. If I have little sleep, how can I serve others? If I never exercise and am unhealthy, how can I take care of children? If I never buy myself anything, how can I be happy for my friend’s gifts?

In keeping in line with Christ, and then taking care of ourselves, that will allow us to have the energy to take care of other people. We should be taking care of others. We should love our friends and family. We should take care of others.

So I propose we arrange this acronym. Instead of J.O.Y., how about J.Y.O.?

I think that will save my life, and my sanity.

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