“Caring for” or “Caretaking” Someone Makes a Big Difference

Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Novelist Eleanor Brown

There is a chasm, a great distance between the acts of caring for someone and caretaking them. However, it is the differences that make all the differences in the way we help, hurt, or heal.

Caretaking is what most of us saw, especially Southerners; we are masterful at caretaking.

“Mama sit down,” is said at many a Thanksgiving meal. “No, that’s alright. Who needs more cornbread, cranberry sauce? I’ll sit down later; don’t mind me.”

Two or three hours later, “Will someone bring me some aspirin, a cool cloth,” and for God’s sake, someone teach me how to “care for.”

A great deal of caretaking is done out of duty, obligation, or guilt and is very intimately married to the word, “should,” and if you don’t, then we are selfish. Caretaking, unless you are paid, a provider, or professional can be exhausting, draining, and sometimes there is even resentment, not only by the one giving the caretaking, but also by the one receiving it.

On the other hand, “caring for” is a whole different animal. Caring for someone from the heart, i.e., “I want to do this – besides I love you and have compassion – there is no cost to me.” Indeed, caring for someone produces energy for all participants. There is a sense of satisfaction. Caring for someone is an honor and privilege to be of service and shows respect to the one being cared for.

I was giving a talk on this subject a few days ago. A man in the audience said, “So how long did it take you to figure this out?” I replied, “only 50 years or so.”