Where Do You Put Yourself in Your List of Priorities?

If you are a Christian, God obviously comes first. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He is the ultimate priority. Until He is first, everything else will seem out of kilter.

A Flight Attendant Demonstrating an EMergy Oxygen Mask - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sjlocke, Image #15019236

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sjlocke

But who comes second. You know, after God? This is where it gets tricky.

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I believe you come next. That’s where I put myself, and I make no apologies for it. That means before my family, friends, and career. Even before my ministry.

I don’t think this is because I am selfish or ego-centric. Then why do I do it?

Because I can’t take care of anyone else unless I take care of myself.

If you travel much, you have no doubt heard the flight attendant say some version of the following:

In the event of a change in cabin pressure, panels above your head will open revealing oxygen masks. Pull the mask down toward you to activate the flow of oxygen. Cover your nose and mouth with the mask. Place the elastic band around your head and continue to breathe normally. Remember to secure your own mask before assisting others.”

This is how I look at life. I have to attend to myself first (second only to God) in order to be spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically available to others. If you have trouble with the semantics of putting yourself second, think of it as preparation to serve others.

For example,

  • If I don’t feed myself spiritually, I don’t have the spiritual resources necessary to share with others. This is why I read the Bible and pray daily.
  • If I don’t look after my own health and become sick, I am not much use to my family or my employees. This is why I run and try to eat nutritionally sound food.
  • If I don’t make time for reading great books, I don’t have the intellectual resources I need to share with others.
  • If I don’t make the effort to work through my own emotional wounds, I end up reacting to others instead of being in a position to minister to them. This is why I think counseling and therapy can be a valuable exercise for most people.
  • If I don’t get sufficient rest, I get grumpy. No one wants to be around me. This is why I try to sleep a solid seven hours every night.

In addition, I want to to model how to take care of myself, so that the people under my influence will take care of themselves.

Some Christians insist on putting themselves at the bottom of their priority list. I think this springs from a false—and dangerous—piety. We are in a much better position to serve others when our basic needs are met.

Questions: Where do you fit into your priority list? What do you do to ensure that your needs are met, so you can be a genuine resource to others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m good with God being first but I do need to do a better job of placing myself second instead of third or fourth. :)

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Really great reminder. No way you can help someone unless you’re taking care of yourself.

    It reminds me of http://iamsecond.com.

  • http://twitter.com/mdmaurer MaDonna Maurer

    When first reading this huge neon signs were flashing “NO! NO! NO!” But, the blare of it died out with this, “think of it as preparation to serve others.” Reading your examples only made more sense. Not that I’ve mastered taking care of myself to the fullest, but I’m a work in progress. I want to serve others, especially the family..but need to do the simple things that will give me the energy to do them.

  • Amy Ward

    Coming out of triple negative breast cancer, I have had to rethink my list and I agree with yours. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Nothing like a health crisis to reshuffle our priorities. It was a catalyst for me, too.

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  • Jeff Jones

    I agree wholly. I remember growing up and hearing that I was somewhere between 3rd and 99th. I have recently come to understand that I need to be second because the relationship between me and God will have the most profound impact on all my other relationships. If I’m right with him, working things out with everyone else will be much easier because 1st and 2nd are working together without interruptions.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yep, it’s kind of like we are the conduit between God and the rest of our world. If that is clogged or not functioning properly, everyone else suffers.

  • http://www.convenientcalendar.com Address Book

    You reap what you sew, and if you are not sewing into yourself, (assuming you are good soil) than you will not reap much!

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  • Finding ME

    Finding ME!!!!

    Ive always but others before me even when I try very hard not 2… I was in 4yr relationship and put their needs b4 mines and I began to lie, cheat and steal in the relationship. I had to learn the hard way on why its so important to put me 1st…

  • http://TransmitHope.com Cynthia Leighton

     True. I struggle with this.

  • http://TransmitHope.com Cynthia Leighton

     Putting others first leads to being unable to take care of ourselves. Recently, so very many people have helped me. For example, one day a few weeks ago 17 friends helped me on the same day. Just because I asked. The love I still feel from that day and the others is wonderfully warming in my heart, way stronger than the pain of recovering from major surgery, among other things. God continues to hold me close, sharing the love of so many people with me. 

    You are not alone.

  • http://wewannado.com Ryan K

    Great points. There is a difference between trying to exalt yourself above others and preparing yourself to serve others. Your advice fits well in line with the latter and is very necessary to a well lived life.

    • chol cabral-caldito

      well said!

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  • Joan Urwin

    all of this is a new revelation to me after seeking help from my vicar at church yesterday for several demanding family problems (one of 10 years lasting) he mentioned the need to take care of myself I would like to know more

  • Sportsbun.com Website

    Don’t Take Too Good Care of Yourself - http://pudulifestyle.blogspot.com/2011/10/dont-take-too-good-care-of-yourself.html

  • Medryn Kilpatrick

    I know this is an old post, however, its still as good and relevant now as then so I’m not affraid to comment. Thank you for this, but I do have a problem with it.

    Your initial post left a bit lacking in understanding your true point and intentions but the comments more than made up for it and helped me understand your true intentions and overall meaning which I agree with.

    However, one thing I would like to point out is a very simple yet major change which this entire subject and your post/lesson would benefit from. For good reason, many people see their “self” as different things. Due to each individuals own interpretations and the many things to learn from scripture regarding ones “self” your statement about putting ones “self” first may come across in different contexts.

    I see my “self” as a part of me that I battle in my desire to abide by the word and grow spiritually and follow the Lord. My “self” is the part of me that wants what it wants, regardless of all else. Its the part that wants to watch TV when I should be serving, wants to go shopping and by myself things I don’t need when I should be putting that money into my family needs and the offering. The part of myself that wants to shovel junk food instead of maintaining a healthy diet. The part that is proud and boasts of my own status and prizes instead of being humble and sharing love and encouragment with others. “Self” can be viewed very badly in terms of putting myself first.

    I do understand though that your not talking about putting this version of “self” first but considering how many different ways people translate and filter what they read and learn the possibility to give the wrong impression is still there. I believe it would be better served to say to put your needs first, not your “self” first. Clearly, any servant has to have their needs met to be of any use to anyone. To be of use to our lord, our needs must be met to be alive and well and ready as a useful tool. Putting my needs first makes total sense, putting myself first is very vague and can easily be construed into wrong ideas.

    This way we can easily describe and understand what our needs are in order to follow our savior and serve others. The need to maintain your health. and the need to support your family and provide for those who rely on you for example. It all becomes much more self explanatory than putting “myself” first to each individuals own terms and extent.

    • chol cabral-caldito

      good point!

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  • Ken

    I don’t agree at all. This reminds of the stages of acceptance for dying. I know when I go I will not go through those stages and in this case I can say that I do next to nothing for myself and help the people in my close orbit allot and constantly, money emotional support etc. I am tired of having people tell me i need to take care of myself then launch into what they need. I am a 51 year old artist male.

  • RPR100

    This is all wrong except for the part about God being first. Things like family, friends, and others are supposed to go right after God and before self. The Bible makes it clear that we are to put ourselves low on the list. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong to take care of ourselves, but there are more important things than self.

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.hurley.56 Greg Hurley

    Michael-I could not agree more. Kind of like the idea of taking oxygen on a plane before tending to a young child. How are we supposed to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) if we are not putting ourselves as a priority? It takes time with God and time of self reflection and having the Holy Spirit to work within us to make us into God would have us to be, and thus, what people would want who do not know Christ yet!

  • Tom Webb

    My ex gf says I put everyone before myself, after thinking this over I realize it is true. What do I do?

  • Pamela Davis

    I think I have been too far down my list, and now I am ill again. Time to put myself first, after God of course

  • Dorothy Carr

    I agree with your post. I continually tell myself that I must take care of me. I am almost on automatic to take care of everybody else. But, as I get older, I can see more clearly the need to take care of me first. Besides, if I don’t, there is no one else to do it.

  • Vikki

    This is such an important task. Growing up I “caught” that putting God first and putting others first were one and the same, and that somehow I wasn’t even supposed to show up in the equation. This caused all kinds of people-pleasing that I have had to overcome well into adulthood. I didn’t trust anything I decided until I got an “amen” from everyone with an opinion. When God has priority, having “prior-authority” in my life, I find that I show up quite prominently in the equation. I am encouraged to choose that good part (Luke 10:42): The part that benefits me, that is to my advantage and cannot be taken away.

  • chol cabral-caldito

    I have been following this principle of putting your needs first before others so you can better take care of them.. but I am struggling with the thought.. that Christ put us first, died for us to take care of us.. to ultimately save us.. How do we respond to His call of us dying to ourselves. (Matthew 16:24-25 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”)

    Need your thoughts on this..