Framing Selfcare as not Selfish, By: Wayne Glass

Self-care, as we continue to know it, is framed as a mental, physical, and/or spiritual pause that the millennial generation (my generation) is grasping onto more-and-more, in efforts to preserve a sense of self. An act of preservation as a result of times where there is and continues to be a plethora of inconsistencies, injustices, and systems of oppression impeding on folks’ abilities to simply live a life that is right for them. Furthermore, self-care as we continue to know it, can even be framed as radical actions that communicate that is perfectly OK to advocate for self so that we can remain engaged in work, family, friends, and community. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wayne, why the intentional use of ‘radical’?” Great question. Thus the catalyst to the framework of this post begins to emerge.
Self-Care as Self-Ish
To begin, I think it is important that we spend time dissecting the association with self-care as ‘selfish.’ Self-care, in some personal and professional circles, remains this idea and practice that if one is making / taking time for self, they are being selfish, self-centered, lazy, and, ultimately, do not care about others around them. For me, all of these ideations are capital ‘F’ False. I say this because I think and feel that we continue to live and work in self-sacrificial environments. Environments where if one is not giving 110% of themselves all of the time, they are not good enough, not competent, not professional, should feel ashamed, and the list goes on. What an awful, toxic reality this is that continues to persist in what can be said most environments.
Secondly, I think it is essential to name that taking / making time for self-care is a privilege. There are an insurmountable amount of communities that do not have the time, efforts, energies, and/or luxury to pause and breathe, reflect, and do something that may not directly correlate with serving as a caretaker for a family member, taking care of siblings or children, or working multiple jobs to provide some type of stability for self and/or others; to name a few examples. Access in relation to education, jobs, affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and affordable nourishing foods can all contribute to whether or not folks have the privilege of taking / making intentional time to physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually step away from life’s daily trials and tribulations.
Self-Care as Self-Less
The concept of “self-care as selfless” is something I learned from a fabulous colleague and mentor, Coco Du, who serves as Macalester College’s Director of Residential Life. Therefore, how I have come to understand this concept is that, in order to remain an effective member of society; personally, professionally, both, we need to do the best we can to briefly (a subjective term) disengage with what takes up most of our physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. I say ‘ briefly’ disengage because I do not think it is helpful and appropriate, pending the situation, to completely disengage. Temporarily disengaging may be framed as taking a trip away from home and/or work to enjoy a change of pace, reading a book on the couch with all technological devices living in the ‘Off’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, or spending time moving one’s body at the gym or in nature. Examples of when it is not appropriate to completely disengage without proper support from colleagues and/or the department is when one works in a high-touch, service-oriented functional area within Student Affairs, such as Residential Life.
Building on this example, being that I serve as a Residence Hall Director, folks in Residential Life work hand-in-hand with students navigating multiple, intersecting challenges, triumphs, and hardships. As a result, these items can, and a lot of times do, have an impact on the professional and paraprofessional (student staff). Consequently, I think it is absolutely imperative that folks are able and empowered to take time to “replenish their cup(s).”
As student affairs professionals, we need to continue to challenge self and others to critically think and act on how we can sustain and remain in a field where it is highly unlikely that the world’s trepidations, which are having significant impacts on the students we are serving, are going to simplify or ‘go away.’ If we do not, I think that we will continue to experience high-burnout and high-turnover rates. Student affairs professionals, in my mind, are not robots that are hired to be all things for all students. Although there is a lot of love and care for the populations we are serving, we cannot remain at full-throttle at all times without having moments of intentional pause.
Self-Care in Action
Self-care, as I have come to know it, has been a practice that took me until I was in my Mid-Twenties to internalize. Like a lot of folks, I lived what I identify as a ‘self-sacrificial’ work and academic lifestyle. A lifestyle where I would work on schoolwork and/or work-work all day, every day because I genuinely cared more about those around me than myself. Now do not get me wrong, I have a lot of love, care, and compassion for people in-and-out of my life. However, giving my whole self 24/7 is / was not healthy. I was reaching moments where I loathed my jobs, school, self, and, at times, would take out all of this loathing on close relationships in my life. This loathing and, essentially, ‘hating’ everything became a huge ‘red flag’ for me and I came to realize that I needed to make some changes in my life.
My (ongoing) self-care journey truly began my second year of graduate school with me taking intentional time in the mornings (5:00am) to go to CrossFit classes at gym close to my apartment. Come rain, shine, snow, or anything in between I would trudge myself out of bed and hangout with who would become amazing people in my life. Unbeknownst to me, CrossFit would become not only an integral part of my mornings but an integral part of my life. So much so that I established a chosen family of caring, passionate, hardworking, and diverse group of individuals. These individuals empowered me to utilize my body as a strengthened tool to navigate the uncertainties of life, to eat food to fuel my body as opposed to framing it as a inconvenience and chore, and put on notches of resiliency with life through enduring several tough workouts.
Prior to discovering CrossFit, I was struggling with establishing harmony with work, academics, and life, suffering from debilitating depression, and experiencing a relapse with an Eating Disorder. My mental health was deteriorating and I was not finding fulfillment with every-day life. Everything, for a lack of better words, sucked, and I was giving up.
My commitment to CrossFit is something that I would have never imagined. How can an effeminate gay boy ever workout or connect with, in some instances, a predominantly hyper-masculine group of individuals? I found that through slowly “testing the waters” and coming into a new community more reserved, which is not my “typical” approach to anything, I began to realize that CrossFit is not, from my perspective, a community that needs to subscribe to a “one size fits all” approach. Additionally, since moving to a more Queer-affirming city, I have found that I can (more comfortably) navigate the intersections of being Queer and effeminate while also lifting heavy weights and physically competing with more masculine-presenting individuals.
Final Thoughts
All of this to be said, I have learned so much about myself as a person, the importance of self-care, and why we should not be framing it is selfish. I have learned about how resilient I have become in tough moments, while also recognizing that there will always be areas for growth and improvement. I have found a new sense of purpose and meaning outside of school and work. Something that allows me to disengage and then re-engage with a revitalized commitment. I have learned that my body is a machine capable of doing so many things that are necessary. to navigate daily life. Things that require adequate and appropriate nutrition and rest. Finally, I have learned that in order for me to be an effective an effective son, brother, friend; an effective student affairs professional; an effective athlete; an effective aspirational change agent, I need to spend time focusing on a piece of life that is completely unrelated to my day-to-day professional endeavors.
Self-care looks differently for everyone. My hope is that we can continue to work to shift the culture of self-care from actions that are selfish to actions that are necessary to live a healthy, meaningful, and harmonized life. How do we do this? Great question. There is not one finite way to shift the culture, but for me, I think sharing lived-experiences where acts of self-care have fundamentally changed one’s life can be powerful for folks to hear; particularly those who are in positions of power. Also, I think that continuing to share the importance of self-care for self-preservation is essential. We cannot continue to survive (and not thrive) in environments where self-sacrificial ideations and practices flourish.

 

 

My name is Wayne Glass (He, Him, and His gender pronouns). I currently serve as a Residence Hall Director at Macalester College where I work with and oversee two first-year Residence Halls.

Navigating the realm of social justice and inclusion has, and will forever be, a priority and emphasis of every personal and professional endeavor I embark upon. Thus, my student affairs endeavors have been to continue to advocate, educate, and support the importance of intersectionality and how identity shapes and plays and role in how we live and breathe in society. As an aspiring social justice educator, I strive to encourage and empower myself, students, faculty, and staff to go outside of our “comfort zones” and fight for equity for all humankind.

If folks are interested in getting (or remaining) connected, I can be found on Instagram | @WayneGlass, Twitter | @WayneGlass1, Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/wmglass2, and/or through E-Mail | wglass@macalester.edu. Feel free to reach out!

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Some Evangelicals Still Have Neighborly Faith, By: Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk

The rise of Donald Trump and his allies on America’s social and political Right has brought renewed attention to Evangelical Christians. After all, a poll that made headlines demonstrated that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for the Trump-Pence ticket (Renaud, 2017). It can seem that most Evangelicals are right-wing culture warriors, seeking to “Make America Great Again” in their image (Burleigh, 2017).

While this can be true of some Evangelicals, it is not true of all. Many are shocked at the current state of affairs and are actively working to make a difference. We (Kevin and Chris) recently interviewed a handful of such Evangelicals that are modeling what we call a “neighborly faith” by striving to be good neighbors to people of other faith and non-faith traditions.

We interviewed five Evangelicals in higher education: two professors, a chaplain, a scholar, and a student leader. Each held traditional faith convictions, but were living them out in non-traditional ways when it comes to being a good neighbor.

All Christians highly regard Jesus’s teaching to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Yet, we all know that not all Christians live this out as they should. Evangelicals have been good at doing this in some ways like, for example, caring for disaster victims (Stetzer, 2017). However, many have been slow to adopt this neighborly love to a new multi-religious America. Fears of the religious “other” are common, short-circuiting the benevolence of even the most sincere Evangelical (Baylor Religion Survey, 2017).

The people we talked to are trailblazers that were finding new ways to live a neighborly faith. We were impressed to see the variety of ways they were doing this.

Most of the people we interviewed told us that they lived in a place of tension between their faith-based convictions to proselytize others and to love them. Some of our guests expressed that proselytization is a tad outdated and especially inappropriate for their contexts as leaders in higher education. Instead, they live out their faith by being hospitable to those who are different.

A common theme during our interviews was people’s desire to find public ways of being hospitable–a sharp contrast to the xenophobic Evangelicals we read about in newspapers. All were upset about the current political ethos, and were taking small, personal steps to be a change.

Two of our interviewees who work in administration at public universities voiced something very interesting: that their public offices gave them the opportunity to apologize on behalf of Evangelicals for abuses, either ongoing or past. They are aware that their group is not perfect. However, being a part of this faith, they want to say: “I’m sorry. Tell me your story. How can I change to be a better neighbor?”

These interviews were enlightening and refreshing for us–however, we know they do not represent all Evangelicals. There are things that need to change among us who share the handle. Yet, we remain hopeful that Evangelicals can change course. The primary reason why we started our podcast was to provide Evangelicals with models of neighborly faith that they can aspire to be like. In our experience, we’ve noticed that Evangelicals are the most willing to trust voices and perspectives from within their fold. Our hope is that the podcast will gain traction with persons of influence within Evangelical communities (pastors, thought-leaders, scholars, etc.), because they are in the best position to make a lasting difference.

Launching our podcast with a spotlight on higher education professionals was a no-brainer. Evangelicals working in higher education are playing a formidable role in shaping the next generation, which will likely be more hospitable to worldview diversity. A 2017 Pew Research study found that millennial Evangelicals are more socially conscious and politically progressive than older generations of Evangelicals (Diamant & Alper, 2017). Furthermore, the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) included 3,200 incoming Evangelical students from 122 colleges and universities across the country. IDEALS found that 82% of respondents identifying as Evangelical felt it was important that their colleges and universities “provide a welcoming environment for people of diverse religious and nonreligious perspectives” (Crandall et. al, 2016). Moreover, 71% scored highly on the IDEALS “Goodwill/Acceptance Scale,” signaling that a majority have positive attitudes toward people with different worldviews and believe that interreligious understanding will make for a more peaceful world.

One of the professors we interviewed was recently invited to join a committee on religion that was organized by the president of their large public university. The purpose of the committee is to support worldview diversity on campus and coordinate activities that promote a pluralistic community. This is how our interviewee characterized their experience on the committee so far:

As a group of students, faculty and staff from all over campus, we’ve had some difficult conversations at times, but we’ve learned to listen closely to each other rather than make assumptions about each other. At the beginning, if you would have asked “What is [the Evangelical] going to think about x, y, or z issue,” I think there would have been a lot of assumptions made. We’ve learned to trust each other, to respect each other, and to not jump to assumptions. It goes to show the value of building relationships in these initiatives (Personal Communication, August 1, 2017).

This testimony is a far cry from those that Evangelicals are used to hearing from polarizing figures like Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., who made national headlines in 2015 for making flagrant remarks about Muslims at an all-University assembly. Unfortunately, the detailed critique written by student leaders from Wheaton College didn’t garnish nearly as much press, which exhorted Evangelical leaders to take seriously the “opportunity and responsibility to guard our words and protect the pillar of unity and love of neighbor which the [New Testament] gospels command us to pursue” (Heath & Horton, 2015).

This is precisely why we’re so excited to share the testimonies of our interviewees through our podcast. There are Evangelicals that are seeking the welfare of their religious and nonreligious neighbors, and they are hoping for opportunities to contribute positively to the religious and nonreligious diversity on their campuses. This may require some campus gatekeepers to set aside their presuppositions about Evangelicals, like the president’s committee on religion that invited our interviewee to participate.

We recognize that this is easier said than done. Many of the reservations that people have about Evangelical Christians are completed warranted. However, we hope that our podcast can dispel the myth that all Evangelicals are as described in the first paragraph of this article. We’ve met some that are poised to be good religious neighbors, and are eager to display neighborly faith. If you are interested in listening to our interviews, please check our website: NeighborlyFaith.org. We are releasing them this Winter and would enjoy your feedback.

Kevin Singer
Pronouns: He, His, Him
PhD Student, North Carolina State University (Higher Education)
Graduate Assistant, Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS)
Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College
Co-Founder, Neighborly Faith
Contact: Kcsinger@ncsu.edu, Twitter: @kevinsinger0

Chris Stackaruk
Pronouns: He, His, Him
PhD Student, Theology, University of Toronto (St. Michael’s College)
Co-Founder, Neighborly Faith
Contact: Christian.Stackaruk@gmail.com

 

REFERENCES

Burleigh, N. (2017, October 06). Does God believe in Trump? White evangelicals are sticking with their “Prince of Lies”. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/13/donald-trump-white-evangelicals-support-god-677587.html

Crandall, R. E., Snipes, J. T., Staples, A., Rockenbach, A. N., Mayhew, M. J., & Associates. (2016). IDEALS Narratives: Incoming Evangelical Students. Chicago, IL: Interfaith Youth Core.

Diamant, J., & Alper, B. A. (2017). Though still conservative, young evangelicals are more liberal than their elders on some issues. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/04/though-still-conservative-young-evangelicals-are-more-liberal-than-their-elders-on-some-issues/

Findings from the Baylor Religion Survey Wave 5: American Values, Mental Health, and Using Technology in the Age of Trump. (2017). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pdf

Heath, N., & Horton, C. (2015, December 10). Opinion | Why we, Wheaton College students, are condemning Jerry Falwell Jr.’s remarks on guns and Muslims. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/12/10/why-we-wheaton-college-students-are-condemning-jerry-falwell-jr-s-remarks-on-guns-and-muslims/?utm_term=.9917ca0fb150

Renaud, M. (2017). Myths Debunked: Why Did White Evangelical Christians Vote for Trump? | The University of Chicago Divinity School. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/myths-debunked-why-did-white-evangelical-christians-vote-trump

Stetzer, E. (2017). Remember teachings of Mr. Rogers and the Good Samaritan in Harvey relief efforts. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/31/harvey-relief-efforts-remember-teachings-mr-rogers-and-good-samaritan-ed-stetzer-column/615904001/