A newborn baby needs to be fed every 2-3 hours. They are completely dependent on others for the timing, quantity, and quality of the food they receive.
Later a child learns to get food into their mouth if it’s provided. With time food preferences develop, and we have an increasing control over how much food, what kind of food, and when we eat. Eventually everything about what we eat is our own choice.
Some people take feeding themselves to an even higher level. An elite athlete, for example, pays great attention to every detail of what they eat for the purpose of functioning at their maximum performance capacity. They may have a nutrition coach. Their eating is with a purpose.
Food for the soul is just like that. When we’re immature we are dependent on others for any stimulation, human communication and connection, and spiritual nurturing we receive. Sometimes the quality, quantity, or timing of that soul food is satisfying and fulfilling. Other times the soul food we receive is not enough, or perhaps even downright dangerous – in the form of child abuse, severe bullying, or other damaging early experiences.
Learning to feed yourself is a mark of maturity. We certainly develop preferences in the soul food we take in. We choose the kinds of entertainment we feed on and the types of people we enjoy being around. We can take from the things in our environment and decide what, when, and how much to “eat.”
More importantly, like spiritual athletes, we can intentionally choose to feed our souls the “food” we need to function at top capacity. The things we allow into our minds, the people we connect with, and the spiritual nurturing we receive all affect the quality of our lives and the impact we make in this world. Elite soul food takes being intentional. It takes learning what our souls truly need and searching for the truly high-quality ways to meet those needs.
I have two friends who I believe have never learned to feed themselves in this way. One has gone from one relationship with a man to another every few years, hoping he will fix her and fill her up. She ends up disappointed each time. The other friend agreed to a marriage shortly after her first husband’s death even though this new man displayed numerous red flag warning signs, and she now faces some extremely painful decisions.
While it’s normal to both need and want a connection with someone, doing so out of desperate hunger is dangerous. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re physically hungry. You’re likely to make very unwise decisions!
Let me offer three important areas to be aware of in learning to mentally/emotionally/spiritually feed yourself:
- The value of your entertainment. What kind of nutrition is your soul getting from the music, TV, internet, reading, or other “entertainment” you engage in? Ask yourself: is this fast food? Good for daily nutrition? Or elite quality “soul fuel?”
- The people you’re around. What values do they stir up and encourage in you? Negativity, bitterness, anxiety, fear, dependency? Courage, love, generosity, strength, peace? If married your spouse is a vital part of this equation. But you cannot depend ONLY on one human being. One person cannot provide ALL the soul food you need.
- The spiritual nurturing you receive. You can feed yourself here too. Prayer lets you speak with God: spend just as much or more time listening! Read or listen to spiritually uplifting materials. Hang out with other spiritually strong and growing people.
God is ultimately the source of the soul food we each so desperately need. We can receive that in many ways. What’s most important is learning to choose what we feed our souls – and to make it the high quality nutrition we need.
Your turn: What is your soul hungry for? How are you feeding yourself mentally/emotionally/spiritually? I’d love to hear from you!