5 Things Soul-Care is NOT
Do you wonder what exactly the soul is? And how are you supposed to care for it anyway?
Most of my life I’ve been confused about my soul. I understood it as a spiritual concept, a churchy word thrown around as cleverly as being souled-out for Jesus and as frightening as a soul’s eternal damnation. Whatever it was, there had to be a whole lot I was missing between those two bookends.
I wasn’t sure where I ended and where my soul began until I came across Dallas Willard’s explanation,
“’Soul’ is here defined as the hidden or “spiritual” side of the person. It includes an individual’s thoughts and feelings, along with heart or will, with its intents and choices. It also includes an individual’s bodily life and social relations, which, in their inner meaning and nature, are just as “hidden” as the thoughts and feelings.”
With these ideas of what the soul is, I begin to see the importance of caring for it. If everything that makes me unique and sensitive and intelligent and loving isn’t cared for, how do I intend to survive the heartbreaking realities of this world?
This simple life – getting rid of the excess, setting boundaries, living with intention – revealed how confused I was. I relied on my stuff for validation, I compared myself to others, spent money mindlessly, and the overwhelming clutter stole my time and energy.
I let go of what covered up who I really am. I discovered that my soul is spiritual – absolutely, and it is the very essence of who I am – my thoughts and feeling, intents and choices, heart and will. My soul is me in my purest form.
But in life we dodge a constant barrage of shrapnel from the fall of man, and we can’t escape unscathed. Soul-care is triage. It’s the essential act of mending wounds and setting bones.
Soul-care is unbreaking the heart with love.
We receive many messages that make us feel unworthy of being who we really are, they tell us to be like them. Instead, I offer these five things that soul-care isn’t so you know you are worthy, and more than enough, to make space and time for your own soul to fully transform.
Soul-care is not…
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Parker J. Palmer
There is a scene in the show “Life in Pieces” (it’s on Netflix and hilarious) where a newly dating couple try desperately not to show each other their flawed lives. She tries to end the new relationship after she admits during the date that that night was the date of her called-off wedding. She felt too broken, she said her life was a mess and had no business dating.
As she walked away, he turned around and confessed all the ways he was broken too – he just moved back home with his parents, his car was on fire in the parking lot, and he was drowning in debt.
He told her the best thing they could do for the dating market is take each other off of it.
Life is hard and we are doing the best we can to navigate through the cuts and blows we are dealt. Transparency of our need for soul-care is the gift that we give the world; it gives others permission to be broken with us – and together we take each other off the “I’m too broken for love/friendship/grace/confidence/insert your own word here” market.
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” ― John Ortberg
Simple living and soul care are knit together when we eliminate the busyness from our lives. Unchecked busyness or hurry stifles your soul’s satisfaction with God. Simple and slow living creates the negative space we need to tend to our soul’s longings.
Also, caring for ourselves in this deep and meaningful way is not something that can be rushed. It isn’t meant to be squeezed into your schedule or rushed through to move on to the next item on the to-do list. Be patient and kind with the process.
Anything that grows must break first. Cells split to create a fetus, seeds split to sprout, the cocoon breaks to release the butterfly, and Jesus broke to give us abundant life.
Deep and transformative soul care feels like a million tiny fractures as you crack the shell of self-preservation. But the cracks are how the light gets in, and the Light is soul food – it’s the sustenance with which we grow beyond where we’ve ever been before.
Don’t mistake the hard, painful, or brokenness as failure; it’s the way to a soul-full life.
The soul is the very essence of what makes each of us who we are. That includes the parts of our personalities and life that may not be a spiritual practice, but are still life giving. Consider how restorative a slow weekend with your family is, or a date night with your spouse, or maybe a solo getaway to your favorite small town for some introspective space. Good coffee or wine, a long run, a massage, or a good book is salve on a weary soul.
I believe a decluttered home and unbusy calendar are a soul-care practice that in themselves are not spiritual, but lead to soul space for a spiritual experience. Take care of your soul in all the ways that uncover your best self.
As the soul encompasses the wholeness of our being, the soul-care opportunities are endless. And the best part is it all brings us back into a simple space where we become sensitive to the presence of God in every moment.
I’m curious, what are your favorite soul-care practices?