proper focus…

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(Reposted to restore missing link from other published posts.)

If you want to help others, you must first focus on yourself. But proper focus isn’t quite that simple.

If you are sick, you must get well if at all possible before you can heal anyone else. And if you are emotionally distraught, you must balance your emotional state before you reach out and help someone else in need.

But not in all circumstances.

Oxygen masks…

For those who have flown in a commercial airplane, you know the drill. If the plane suddenly loses altitude, an oxygen mask will drop from the bottom of the luggage rack above you. You pull it down, give it a tug to start the oxygen flow, then cover your face with it and adjust the elastic strop behind your head.

And you are told this must happen to you first before your children.

Why, you might ask?

Because if you pass out fixing your child’s mask, you won’t make it. And you may not fully complete the job of adjusting it properly on your child’s either. So they may not make it, either.

Fix yourself first?

There are stories of heroes who thought of others before themselves. They rush into burning buildings or fiery car wrecks to drag strangers to safety. Saints who forsook their own concerns to help those people around them who they perceived had more need of assistance and sustenance then they did.

These people didn’t think about what condition their bodies or minds were in. There was a need, and they stepped up to the plate to help.

But these are extraordinary circumstances. As human beings, we are often faced with forsaking ourselves for the sake of another, or taking care of self so that we can do the same for some else.

The difference…

The difference between those who need to take care of themselves first and those who don’t is the circumstances surrounding the need.

A natural disaster affects everyone. It doesn’t matter what your health or emotional needs are at the time. This is a time when doing what you can within your abilities is a necessity for the sake of the other person.

If someone is caught beneath the rubble of a collapsed building, the last thing anyone wants to hear is the headache you have been having all morning. Doing something for someone else in dire straights will often keep you from even thinking about your own problems.

But if you are someone who needs to take a break for a while because you find yourself overloaded by the noise and hustle of your job or family, it isn’t a bad thing to do if you are able. Coming back to the situation refreshed will only serve to give a better and more peaceful perspective on the situation.

Those around you will certainly appreciate the refreshed you that comes back from that small departure.

If you have a contagious disease, it would be more prudent to take care of yourself than to spread it to others because you want to go shopping for your favorite foods. Perhaps waiting until you are well would be more considerate to those you would otherwise expose.


You need to evaluate the situation first.

Most of us are not going to encounter extreme issues in the majority of our lives. And it is these times that I am addressing.

Take care of your needs first as you are able so that you can come back and serve others with the strength and emotional resilience necessary to help them.

Don’t try to take on needs where none exist…

The idea of backing up someone because you perceive them to be in trouble or having problems without asking is like trying to take a bone from a starving dog. If it serves the person (or dog) well to take charge of a situation, fine.

But ask first.

Unlike the dog, people can communicate to you what is necessary to know.

And perhaps what appears to be a problem really isn’t one. The presumption could only serve to make a situation worse, or create a situation where none previously existed.

Reach outside yourself to take care of yourself…

There are times when reaching beyond yourself actually will help you, too. Those who are emotionally fragile and are over-contemplating the miseries of life are taken on quite a journey outside themselves when the choose to serve others.

however, the psychological concept of service is something not taught in our society today. It is purely focused on our own needs. Meditations, self-help classes, blogs on how to be the best you can be, motivational sites…All these things can be wonderful tools to help us understand ourselves and get ourselves moving in the right direction.

But if you focus too much on yourself and your own problems and miseries, you will find yourself spiraling into a world of despair and depression. Under those circumstances, doing what is best for yourself might just be to reach out to help those less fortunate. Serve someone in a soup kitchen or hospital.

Serving others less fortunate it is often the best remedy for breaking that downward spiral.

For most people, taking care of yourself – giving yourself the time to spend recharging your physical and emotional batteries – is the best choice.

It is a balancing act…

Taking care of self should only come from the perspective of compassion. Compassionate yourself. Not for your own sake, but for the sake of those around you.

Compassion. The key to a wise decision for when taking care of yourself is best.

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