A friend told me a story recently. An instructor was leading a training for a group of physicians. She began experiencing acute physical symptoms, which she believed were signs of a heart attack. She ignored her symptoms and continued leading the presentation.
Bill, my brother, told me a another story a few days later. During rush-hour he’d seen a pedestrian ignore traffic signals and attempt to cross the street by walking through oncoming cars. The man taunted drivers with menacing gestures and yelled obscenities as he dashed and darted in the midst of them.
Neither saw themselves or their situations accurately.
The woman’s life was, of course, far more important than the content of her presentation. The agitated man’s body and emotions were, of course, no match for the sheer weight and force of a moving vehicle.
Although the nobility of their intentions varied, they were each epically failing at self-care.
Fortunately, both of them survived.
The physicians noticed their instructor’s physical distress, stopped the presentation, and took her to the hospital in time to receive important treatment. Later, she described her reasons for continuing to teach. First, she believed the training was very important. Second, she assumed the physicians would save her, if she collapsed in front of them.
Bill was concerned for the chaotic man’s safety. He shouted to the pedestrian, “Get out of the street.” The man got out of the street in order to run angrily toward Bill. The intense escalation subsided abruptly when Bill smiled and said, “You’re way too valuable to treat yourself this way.”
What can we learn from these epic self-care failures? We’re probably clear on the significance of our goals and intentions in life. But I wonder if we really see our situation, our choices and our value accurately? It’s worth asking the question,