Let’s be honest. Reaching out to others can be exhausting at times. Finding that balance between our own personal needs and the needs of the world can seem like an endless quest. No matter where we are on the introversion – extroversion spectrum, we all need time to recharge. Otherwise, we will have nothing to give.
It’s good to “be still and know.” We should find regular times to honor the sacred. But it can be hard. We are pulled in so many directions.
Regardless of the season of year, we need to monitor our energy levels. As we seek to be people who are instruments of peace, who reach outside of ourselves and make an impact through relationships, we need to make sure that we not only have something to give, but also that what we give is genuine and of high quality.
Here are 5 ways you can make this happen:
(1) If you have a flexible schedule, do not schedule any appointments until after 11 am.
For a long time I didn’t get this. I would schedule appointments whenever it worked for the other person. I have come to see how valuable that early morning time is for getting the most important projects done. So I keep it as free from other commitments as possible.
If you do not have a flexible schedule and work a standard 8–5 or 9–5 day, I would suggest building margin into the before-work hours as well as the after-work hours – even if that means only 10–15 minutes or so.
There are secret ways to “steal” balance and claim it as your own. Stop. Breathe. Deeply. Meditate. Focus. Journal, Drink a glass of water very slowly and consider the blessing of that liquid wonder when you do. Gaze upon a flower in your yard, in a vase, on a screen. Whatever! Appreciate large and small.
Busy working moms and single parents of young children have the toughest challenge here. You will need to be so committed to the early morning hours before children wake up or after they’re down in bed to grab that time. But you’ll find, no doubt, it’s worth it.
(2) Take a serious look at the coming week before it overcomes you.
Even though I connect with dozens of internationals on a regular basis, I make sure not to overload in a given week. I know what my limit is for outside appointments, and you need to learn that, too.
I find that Sundays are an ideal time for me to assess what lies ahead in the week. When possible, I do this with my husband as well. Taking the time to assess and plan slows us down but also gets us focused. I also have time to readjust plans as well.
(3) Put a priority on self-care.
There is so much out there about this topic, but it bears repeating here. We can only give what we have. If we are depleted, we have nothing. Self-care means proper sleep, nutrition, exercise as well as time connecting with your Creator. It means nourishing body and soul. This is the balance so needed for effective influence.
I had a season in my life when I failed to do this. It built up over a period of a few years and I almost crashed and burned. It led to depression, physical injury and even serious suicidal thoughts. Everything was inward.
But God spoke.
In a nutshell, He gave me new vision for my life. He used the analogy of two trees – one deciduous with just a few leaves hanging, a representation of lost joy but life still present though dormant, and another of a thriving redwood, evergreen and reaching high for the sun. He told me, “That’s who I’m turning you into. Let me.”
Wow. So that’s what He’s been doing in my life for the last 12 years. Turning me into a redwood.
It is not selfish to take good sleep, manage your diet well, exercise, enjoy time in quiet meditation and the like. These things are necessary for our soul! They fill us up so we have more to give! It is the balance we are so craving for.
(4) Be deliberate and be a learner of other ways.
As you choose to step out of your comfort zone and cross over into the lifestyle and ways of another, pray. Think. Read. Ask for a gentle spirit. Prepare your own heart. Ask good questions. Choose to listen. This is part of striking that balance of appropriate care and love.
Choose not to go into any relationship or time together with someone from a different cultural or religious background with any agenda besides wanting to be a vessel of love and peace. If you are a Christ-follower, this is how you can be Jesus to a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew or follower of any other faith or philosophy.
Recognize that most of the people you will encounter have spent 20, 30, 40 or more years living life in their cultural world. Many times they have learned, from birth, that their way is the way. Don’t be focused on convincing them otherwise. You will only repel.
Rather, listen and learn about why they think the way they think, believe the way they do. Ask good, open-ended questions. Try to stay away from the simple yes/no questions. Be genuine in your interest. You will build trust.
(5) Above all, love.
This is the final key in striking a balance, both in any relationship you may have – especially with those outside of your family and cultural association group – as well as in caring for yourself.
As we choose love – and it often is a choice – others are drawn to us and eager to learn “what makes us tick.” This opens doors to discussion that can be simple and genuine. As a Christ-follower, this opens a door for me to share the hope I have within me in a way that doesn’t offend because we have built up our mutual understanding and trust. I do not foist my belief system upon my friend, but offer it for his or her consideration.
I have seen again and again that love wins over hearts. It also helps you know how to draw lines and boundaries in relationships, as well as to know when you need to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
Finally, I also have learned to love myself in the process. Not self-centered, “look-at-me” type of love. No! Rather, a love that springs from an understanding of who I am in Christ. He loved me enough to suffer and die for me. To make a way for eternal life.
Living anything less than in the fullness of all God has for me would be squandering the gift of life He offers. It would also mean not being available to share that with others, in ways large and small.
How are you learning to “strike a balance” between living for self vs. living for others? Please share here!
Image Credit: NCinDC Life is Just One Big Balancing Act on Flickr, Creative Commons