What bees can teach us: Self care is different from caring about yourself

St. John Chrysostom once said in his 12th homily, “The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.” It is a simple idea, one that we were taught while in kindergarten - the value of serving others. 

While the beehive is not a common image used in relation to the Church, it does make it's appearance in the Latter Day Saints community as well as a connection to St Ambrose, St Bartholomew, St Kharlamii, and St. Gobnait (aka Abigail) to name a few. Beekeeping and the monastic life have long been intertwined. 

I trust that you can discover many layers in the metaphor of bees and the Christian life but I wanted to highlight one specific aspect about bees and the Christian life. That is the work of self care. 

Sometimes we are prone to think that the bee is working to pollinate the other flowers that it comes across and this is what the bee is setting out to do. However, this is not what the bee is doing. The bee, as you know, is looking for nectar and it goes from flower to flower doing so. To put it another less poetic way, the bee is taking care of itself in a way that benefits the world around it. This reflective of what self care is within the Christian tradition. 

Christians are called to tend to our own souls but in a particular and specif way: our self care benefits those around us. Too often self care is thought of as something that one does in order to get away from people and the larger world. Ironically, self care cannot end with the self. Self care means we act in ways renew us while also pollinating the world. More inward forms of renewal is not self care, it is just caring about ourselves.