#selfcare dietrich von hildebrand

Allowing Your Soul to Grow Wings: Self-Care 101

10:08:00 AMCatherine Beigel


I was scrolling through Instagram yesterday morning (nothing new here folks), when I stopped on a clearly staged photo of steaming french press coffee being poured into a porcelain mug. The caption was described a hectic busy lifestyle and the need to slow down and enjoy the little things. To summarize: self-care. 

My immediate reaction: aw-girl there is no way I can just take a day off to drink coffee and enjoy the quietness from my home. My to-do list would run into the ground. What you call self-care, I call self-destruction. 

How I long for a day off. 

But that simply isn’t possible. I started the semester off and got myself involved with just about everything. Senior spring is kicking my butt. If it weren’t for my faithful passion planner nothing would ever be accomplished and I would for sure be in tears in some odd corner of the library. 

Reflecting on the Instagram post, perhaps I do need to start practicing some self care. Is a slow morning with coffee what I need to recharge? In a moment to moment scheduled life, how do I find the time? 

Am I living for steaming cups of black gold? There has to be something better than coffee. Was not the human person made for more? 

Being the philosophy student that I am, my natural instinct is to turn to where I spend a majority of my time - books. Not just any books, but the books of the philosophers who have shaped how I think, live, and act. Namely, Dietrich von Hildebrand and Edith Stein.  Both are personalists. That is to say, focus their writings, on the value of the human person. You probably already know this if you’ve been reading Truth from the Heart. What do these great thinkers say about “recharging”?


One of the single most important “discoveries” in my opinion is the heart. The heart is more than the anatomical center of man pumping blood through his veins. Analogously, the heart for Dietrich, is the center of man were we respond to values. In our response to value we learn how to be human.. Not that we weren’t before, but we live our capacity to its fullest potential and discover cavities of ourselves we didn’t know existed. 

In one place Dietrich talks about the transformation that comes through value saying, “The soul grows wings--that is, the deepest inner transformation takes place--only if there is a real penetration of values and a real self-forgetfulness is achieved” (3). 

I don’t need to learn self-care. I need to learn how to respond to values. 

In drinking a fresh cup of coffee am I responding to value? Strictly speaking, no. Coffee I enjoy for it’s effect on my brain, the comfort of holding it in my hands, and for that sweet bitter taste. Some of you might not like coffee. While on a personal level I abhor you for this, there is actually nothing wrong with that. Coffee is subjectively satisfying and is a good because of that. Outside of your subjective pleasure, coffee has no concrete value. 

If not coffee, what about sleep? Maybe if I indulged in my time asleep I would be responding to value? This also isn’t exactly what Dietrich has in mind either. Sleep is only good in certain proportions. It is good for each of us, but only has goodness when done at the right time and is not over done. 

Although sleep and coffee are both goods, they don’t adequately encapsulate the values which cause the soul to grow wings. Values are goods in and of themselves. Although they have no need of our response, values offer us so much when we open ourselves up to them with reverence and allow them to impact our lives. An encountering value and responding to it appropriately moves us from lower human desires (i.e. coffee and sleep) and move us to transcendent spiritual desires fitting of our human faculties.

Each human person has value. 

  

Beauty has value.
  

Truth has value. 


God has value. 


Our attitude towards value needs to be one of receptivity and reverence. Receptivity can only be achieved when we allow ourselves the silence and space to encounter values. How am I going to notice the value of the thousands of students I walk past everyday if I’m lost in my own thoughts hastily going through a to-do list? I won’t. 

In some sense it seems that we need the silence of self-care as a prerequisite to encounter the world of values. The silence itself is not what provides the wholeness for which we are looking. It disposes us to better encounter them with reverence. 

Do not stay on the level of the subjectively satisfying. Don’t stay with self care. To stay on that level is to stay on the level of a man who is heedless and thoughtless. Dive into values and feel your soul grow wings. 



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1. Image one 
2. Image two 
3. Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality, pg. 6
4. Image three 
5. Image four 
6. Image five 
7. Image six 
8. Image seven 

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