Thoughts On… {Self Care}

I think the self-care movement is, at its foundation, a socially-acceptable excuse for selfishness.Β 

Yet I’m all for self-care! See, it’s just the self-care movement that makes me sad. And today I’m going to try to explain why a way that’s hopefully helpful and productive, not just a bunch of complaining – since that’s not good #selfcare however you look at it. πŸ˜‰

If you read this post and disagree – which, let’s be real, is gonna happen a lot – please still feel free to leave a comment below! I really want to hear from you. *nods* Either way, I hope this post makes you think, because we need more of that.

Okay. *deep breath* Here’s my take on self care as a Christian teen.

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We’re all riding a seesaw. Self-care is on one side, other-care is on the other (heh), and the board is balanced on what we believe is ultimately the most important – a.k.a. our God or god. So, like I said, I think self care is extremely important. In its proper balance. In a nutshell, I disagree with the self-care movement because it is SO unbalanced.

A self-centered culture will inevitably fall apart, and that’s what I see happening. We were made for relationship and community guys. But if we took this self care mentality to it’s logical limits, people would only love others when it was convenient for them to do so: whenever it got hard or messy, they would pull back, run home for a bubble bath, and excuse it under the label of self-care. None of us want to live in that world.

But what’s the alternative? Priorities, my friends. If I could choose one passage from the Bible for a practical application of this topic (for Christians or non-Christians), it would be Matthew 22:37-39.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

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And that’s it. In three verses, I think the Bible shows us a very practical way of balancing self-love with love for others. It goes like this. One: love God. Two: love others & yourself.

Everyone is going to live out this natural sequence in different ways. If you’re not first loving the one true God who redeemed you, you’ll inevitably love some lowercase-god. That’s just the way we work. The self care movement is so skewed because in that world, the god (or goddess) is YOU. The world revolves around you. The most important thing in life is yourself. The source of wisdom, power, beauty, etc. is… you. Why look to a dusty old book for guidance when you can trust your heart? (Hint: because the Bible is rather more than a dusty old book for guidance and your heart isn’t very trustworthy, but that’s a post for another time.)

But even for Christians, “love God” sometimes becomes a theoretical commandment. I know it can for me. *sigh* We worship God on Sundays and ourselves the rest of the week. Guys, we must realize that this command is practical! True faith doesn’t stay in church. It spills over into everything, into your whole entire life – work, school, relationships, time management – because your Savior has flipped your whole entire life upside down in the most glorious way, and everything has changed.

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So step one: our lives reflect the ultimate reality of God’s love when we seek and serve Him first – before others, ourselves, and our immediate desires. And out of that love, it’s natural to progress to step two:

Love others, love yourself. This is really a two-sides-of-the-same-coin situation, but let’s take “love yourself” first, because, you know, #selfcare.

Guess what? The Bible is advocating self-care! And you know for what reason? Welp, it’s partly so we can love our neighbors better. This is a key point, guys: loving yourself shouldn’t be the end goal. Loving yourself is a way to pour into others.

Why? Let’s look at this statement logically: love your neighbor as yourself. What if you do a crummy job of loving yourself? In fact, you HATE yourself. Do you think that might bleed into your overall attitude toward others? If we love our neighbor as ourselves but we don’t love ourselves, we won’t love our neighbor well either.

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So here comes the pep talk part. You are important, you are loved, and you are valuable. I don’t know everyone reading this, yet I can say that sentence with absolute certainty and honesty. And you know why? Not because maybe you’re popular on Instagram or you’ve tried to be a “good person” all your life or you’re insanely beautiful and everyone notices you. But because I know that every human being is made in the likeness of God; and realizing that makes every single human important, loved, and hugely valuable – even when you don’t feel like it. And really, who are you, who am I to hate the person whom the Creator of the universe loves enough to sacrificeΒ  e v e r y t h i n gΒ  for?

That’s why we have to love ourselves. Yes, because if we’re burntout and in terrible health personally, we won’t be able to serve others, but also because we are made in the likeness of God, and we need to respect that.

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And this is how loving God leads to loving yourself and others. Because when your life is centered on the gospel and God’s jaw-dropping, mind-blowing grace, 1) you realize your own value 2) it’s like you’re so soaked in love that it just oozes out of you and onto everyone else. John 13: 34-35 says that the world will know we’re Christians by the way we love. Can you see that in yourself? Can others tell something is different about you because you’re so full of selfless love for others that it’s just weird? *sigh* That’s a hard question for me to ask myself.

See, anyone can love people who are lovable; maybe even count it as self-care because of the way they “pour into you” (a.k.a. compliment you and make you feel good about yourself). But it’s the loving people who aren’t so lovable that is radical, that is strange, that will cause people to have questions.

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Why are we always so quick to escape from relationships that don’t make us happy? Because, left to our own devices, we choose the path of least resistance. And self care provides the perfect excuse.

For example: you want to be a strong woman. Okay. Self care defines that as jamming your hands on your hips and saying, “I’m putting myself first and everyone else better get over it.” But that’s weakness, my dear. Selfishness is easy; it requires few to no muscles. Selflessness is hard; it requires incredible strength. A strong woman uses her resources and her strength to build others up, even when they’re tearing her down. Strength is staying when someone needs you even though it would be easier, understandable, and more comfortable to walk away.

I’m not saying you just let people walk all over you ’cause you’re being “selfless.” That’s not strength either. I’m not saying you should give and give to every single person who needs you. You’d die trying. I’m saying, the second step is a balancing act, with “love yourself” on one side of the seesaw and “love others” on the other. And the self-care movement has tipped the board firmly to the former.

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Let’s look at an example of how this balance might work. Have you ever noticed how, in the gospels, Jesus sometimes slips away and withdraws from the suffocating, clamoring crowds of people? Every introvert can relate, heh heh. Although Jesus was God, of course, he was also man, and that shows clearly in the Bible. He got tired. He felt sad. And he was perfect! It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to take breaks, guys.

Side note, though: when he slips away, it’s not for a little yoga session; it’s usually to be with or pray to his Heavenly Father. Alone with God. This form of self-care builds ourselves up not by meditating on how great we are but on how great GOD is, so that we are energized again to love ourselves and others.

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So that’s one side of the self-care seesaw. Yes, we need to love ourselves. We need to respect our bodies and our minds and not burn ourselves out needlessly. ON THE OTHER HAND. Sometimes it’s okay to burn ourselves out for others. O.o Jesus lived his life serving people and pouring himself out for them. In return he was rejected, despised, insulted, beaten, and killed in the most brutal way possible.

What if Jesus had followed the “self care rules”? What if he said, “I’ve poured myself into others my whole life, and all I got for it was pain and hatred and death-threats and insults. I deserve to do whatever makes me happy now. I’m going to do what’s best for me and everyone else can just deal with it!” While that would make sense from our perspective, his perspective as Savior of the world was different. Instead of running away from all those “toxic relationships,” he actually DIED on behalf of his enemies so that, by faith, the very ones that hated him could have a chance to be adopted into the King’s family. The ultimate definition of selfless.

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Do you think it was always easy for him to be selfless? Not if you’ve read Luke 22:41-44 or the other accounts of him praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Although Jesus was God, he also became man. He was human. And he was in agony. But he did it anyway. Sometimes we start to feel burned out and depressed and we do need to step back and recharge. (Especially because, duh, we’re not the Savior of the world.) Other times we need to selflessly love people even when it feels bad. A good question to ask might be, “will being selfless here physically hurt me or just make me uncomfortable?” I don’t think “uncomfortable” always deserves to be fixed with the self care band-aid. Some things do.

Balancing that seesaw requires wisdom, and I’m here to tell you, you won’t find that wisdom inside yourself (“following your heart” will just tip the seesaw completely to the “love yourself” side). These two great commandments are connected. You find wisdom for loving others/yourself when you are properly rooted in loving God – and loving God involves knowing him, which principally happens by reading his Word. When you start loving yourself and serving others to the point that your very service blinds you to the reason you’re serving, I think that’s a good indicator to go back to step one again.

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Alright. *deep breath* Almost done here. Why do I like about the self care movement? I appreciate that we finally seem to be pulling out of the era where self-harm and depression is cool. It’s not cool, guys. Self-harm and depression and mental illness are real, awful, sad realities in this broken world. Whyyyy are we celebrating them? I don’t understand.

Nowadays, it seems like often people hide behind anxiety or bad mental health as an excuse or a way to get attention and sympathy. Please understand me: anxiety and depression and mental illness are REAL, guys. Terribly real. But you know what I think? Perhaps there would be a little less fake mental illness, a little less anxiety, if we were more self-less.Β 

Sometimes people feel depressed or anxious because they’re lonely. Because they feel like they’re not worth anything. Because they are so, so scared of other people’s opinion of them, of what they might say or how they might react against the real them, the one deep inside, past the perfect Instagram image. When people only ever know the fake image you project of yourselves, you can be lonely enough to want to die even in a crowd of people. Do you think our culture of putting ourselves before others contributes to that?

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I love the quote by Lydia Brownback that goes, “The cure for our people fears is to love people more and to need them less.” We are mistakenly “selfless” when we pour into people because we need their approval to be happy. (Hmm, sounds suspiciously like selfishness to me…) That’s what burns you out, my friends, when you place your security in people. Because they will disappoint you and yes, you’re going to want to retreat into yourself instead and shut the world out. But guess what? You’re going to disappoint yourself too!

Instead, we should need people less – depend on others less for our ultimate happiness and security – and love them more – give our compassion to them freely, not because we demand something in return.

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Oh, my friends, my friends. This is a cry from my heart. Most of the time don’t need more self-love because we already idolize ourselves and our desires. We need to pour out ourselves for others. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we truly loved each other? If, with our love founded in the only true love of God, we sacrificed a bubble bath for listening to someone’s tears and giving them a hug? Instead of a day of face masks and novel-reading, if we went out and loved the hurting people all around us? Writing this post (and that sentence) made my heart ache with something that feels a lot like guilt. I have so far to go in this area, it’s like I’ve barely started.

But oh, let’s be strong enough to start, shall we?

Open your eyes, darling. Look up from yourself. Do you see this broken, crying world? Can you see how much it needs you? Please take care of yourself; you must. But oh, don’t forget to take care of others too.

***Allison***

70 thoughts on “Thoughts On… {Self Care}

  1. This is so true… I always hate when I see those pins on Pinterest popping up in my feed… β€œLeave those who don’t deserve you! Love yourself and don’t stay with anyone who doesn’t make you happy!” There’s so much influence nowadays telling you to be selfish and unloving towards anyone who isn’t in a β€œperfect” relationship with you, and it’s pretty horrible. You wrote this post so well. *claps*

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allison, you did such an incredible job with this post. I saw the title said “self care” and I was like, okay, but is it going to be one of those posts on ways you can love yourself et cetera? I read the first line and instantly knew it wasn’t.

    I find it truly incredible that the best way to find strength and comfort is not to praise ourselves, but to praise the very God who created us. And if we actually believe God made a mistake in making us, how can we worship him? In worshiping God we not only have stop idolizing ourselves, but we praise him as a creator who is perfect.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post! I’m going to have to come back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, thank you for the amazing comment! I’m so happy you appreciated the post, because YES – that’s what I was going for. Something different. πŸ™‚

      Yesssss I agree! *applauds* Exactly!

      Thank YOU for reading it, dear, and for sharing your thoughts. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s all a balance, like you said! For me personally, I think self-care is really important. I don’t think you can love others if you don’t renew yourself or take care of your body. This is extremely evident throughout our world… People are physically and mentally sicker than ever.

    We can do sooo much more good if we properly take care of ourselves! For example, I know a woman who “burnt herself out” for others. Now, she’s sick and in really poor health. Not that God can’t use her situation — I think He is for sure! But I would disagree slightly that it’s a good thing to repeatedly burn yourselves out for other people. Jesus often took periods where He left the large crowds and even His disciples to renew Himself. And for us humans, whether that’s through prayer or yoga or a walk is great. I think God can use all of those forms of self care to help us become more well-rounded people and serve Him. πŸ™‚

    I’d love to dive deeper into this topic, and I think it’s really interesting! Could you give an example of the actual negative things the “self care movement” is doing and how it leads to selfishness?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, excellent comment, my friend! Ooh yes, I love what you said! *nods* And yeah, I definitely get that. It’s true!

      Yep, it’s a balance. When we pour ourselves into others with disregard for our own health, that’s not going to help anyone, nor is it respectful of our bodies. Oh, I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to repeatedly burn yourself out for people either – that attitude is pretty much letting yourself get trampled on and not knowing when to say no. Not healthy.

      BUT. Being selfless is different than getting trampled on. For example, Mother Theresa and other amazing missionaries who lived among the sick and poor served them SO selflessly; they also faced terrible hardships because they didn’t always do what was best for their own health. They experienced poverty and sickness and disease when they didn’t have to, even when they could have caught the sicknesses they were trying to heal (and sometimes did). You could say that they were burning themselves out for others, the way a candle gives light while it is dying. And that kind of sacrificial service I think is what we need more of. I do think we should put others before ourselves more than we naturally do even when it causes discomfort to us (but not simply *because* it does – we’re not earning points for “best martyr” or anything! XD).

      In my mind, the difference is kind of like going to the sick to catch their disease so you can see what it’s like to be that person, vs. taking proper care of yourself so you *won’t* get sick, and can help them heal instead! What I DON’T think we should do is get so wrapped up in self-preservation and fear of the disease that we neglect to help the sick at all, especially when we have the power to heal. Hopefully that makes sense.

      And yessss, I TOTALLY agree with you there! God definitely can use prayer or yoga or a walk to help us become better people and serve him better. *nods* It’s foolish to disregard that! We definitely need to follow Jesus’ example there and take time to renew and care for ourselves because We. Are. Human. Just… don’t stop there. Renew ourselves so we can go back into that crowd and love them again. ❀

      This IS an interesting topic, and obviously a bigger one than can be covered in one post (which is why I'm super glad we can talk about it in the comments πŸ™‚ ). Hmm, that's a great question! I'm blessed to be surrounded by plenty of loving, selfless people; I haven't personally come into contact with a blatant act of selfishness proceeding from the self care movement, at least not more than I mentioned in the post. This post was more directed at the "philosophy" or background of the movement as a whole, which *doesn't always*, but can *easily* lead to selfishness because it seems to be built on the secular foundations of individualism and the belief that humans are the center of the universe, not God. When you start with that worldview, there's really no reason to love others once it becomes uncomfortable. It's not a new thing – just an outgrowth of what we've been hearing for years: "believe in yourself" or "follow your heart," or other "Disney creeds" that prompt us to find meaning inside ourselves rather than in God.

      I think Christians can learn and should apply many principles of the self-care movement because, like we both said, self-care is a valuable and Biblical idea. I just think we need to be extra careful to keep our priorities straight and not end up idolizing ourselves and excluding others!

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Thanks so much for such a wonderful follow-up, comment! The way you explained things makes a lot more sense, and I definitely agree with a lot of things! πŸ˜€
        Your sick analogy makes a lot of sense, yes! I’m really glad you’re surrounded by selfless people, and I definitely get the “commercialized” philosophy of self-care. I saw a book at a clothing shop called “Me Before We” and it gave me that entire vibe. I think the self-care movement has been great to help people take proper care of their physical and mental health and also to help stir awareness. However, like anything else, it’s gotten pretty extreme.

        Thankfully, my view of self-care resides in a long shower or walk around the block or time to read and journal, and I’m very thankful for the ability to do that. 2019 was NOT full of much self-care, and I just felt burnt out, behind, and tired. So I suppose this year, I’m swinging a bit in the opposite direction. πŸ™‚

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with empowerment. I guess I view “believe in yourself” as a good thing… believe in the person God made me to be.

        Yes, I definitely agree! I personally don’t have experience with — or observed — the self-care movement converting into selfishness, thankfully. Thank you again for this great comment, dear! πŸ’›

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well yay! I’m glad it was helpful. πŸ™‚ Yesss, exactly. I think the concept of the movement is great, but the emphasis has become a little extreme.

          Yes, those are GREAT ways to practice self-care, and I’m so, so glad you’re able to do them this year. πŸ™‚

          Hey, I love that way of looking at it! I guess I’ve always seen it from a different perspective, but I think yours is super helpful.

          I’m glad. ❀ Thank YOU for the conversation, my friend!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes! Yes! YES!!! I’ve been thinking this myself for so long. This self-care/self-love thing has the wrong foundation. God is Love, and if we wish to love anything else, we must go to Him for that love. Any ‘love’ that is not founded on God is not really love.

    Hope I made myself clear enough, Allison. (Kinda got excited after reading your AMAZING post.) πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Allison! This is chalk full of amazing insights. I agree with so much of if. There is definitely a balance there when it comes to self care and self love. Getting away like Jesus did really spoke to me.

    I wrote something on my other blog a while back about Penguin huddles. A Penguin huddle is never static. It’s constantantly shifting. They need each other for warmth, but sometimes they can get overheated and have to make there way out of the huddle. We can definitely get overwhelmed by everything. Sometimes that self care is so necessary, but then we have to return to the huddle again for warmth. Many Christians take retreats. I think this is a pretty healthy way to handle self care.

    https://godskidspeaks.com/2019/01/03/wheres-waddles/

    I do think it all boils down to our motivation. Are we doing it for personal comfort or for maintaing a healthy spiritual self? You’re right. Self care can most definitely be abused.

    You actually helped me with something that I’ve been praying about: Back in September I had to cut ties with a friend because we were constantly butting heads. I don’t normally butt heads with friends, but this friendship has always been different than the rest. Long story short. I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong and make sure that cutting ties was appropriate. In this case I think it was necessary for me to break that “huddle,” but at the same time I’ve been so worried that I’m wrong. But now I’m thinking that by the fact that I am so worried about this, my heart is in the right place. I didn’t do it for personal comfort. I’m still concerned for and praying for this friend, but this friendship was having a bad effect on me. I could do nothing to maintain the peace and I couldn’t see clearly while I was tied to it. It was necessary for both of us to go our seperate ways. We weren’t headed in the same direction. This is why we were butting heads.

    I definitely do have to grow in patience when it comes to bearing the infirmities of the weak, but I couldn’t see all that I needed to see because I was getting “over heated.” Now it’s time for me to grow in those areas that need strengthening. I couldn’t do this tethered to someone who was weakening me spiritually. Whew! that was a lot!

    Your photos are always amazing, by the way. You have a gift there for sure. (SO inspiring!) You’re also very insightful. Another spiritual gift for sure. Keep sharing. ☺ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, thank you for the lovely long comment, Tina! I loved hearing your thoughts. I love the idea of a penguin huddle and taking retreats like that!

      Oh wow, I’m sorry. That would be such a tough situation to figure out. But yes, there definitely comes a time when no matter how selfless you’re trying to be, you’re not helping the other person and in fact you’re just hurting yourself. And that’s where the self-care movement is correct, I think, in encouraging people that it is okay to move away from those situations! And even healthy!

      Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the post (and the photos ❀ ), and thank you again for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. okay like
    i LOVE what you’re saying here

    i think i’m tempted to argue for the sake of the individual solely because of personal experience—because while what you’re saying about selflessness and serving others is good, i’ve seen what happens when people exploit and twist that cause for their purposes, and i’ve seen truly caring people fall into the trap of thinking that “you/i HAVE to stick this out and serve this person because it’s the right thing to do and it’s selfless” and yeah, that ends up disastrously. and i think there comes a point, especially for people in oppressive/abusive situations where they do need to start focusing on themselves and getting out.

    but alas, i’m speaking of specific situations, and you’re talking about the movement in general, so our thoughtlines won’t sync. XD

    i think people hype up self-care too much for again, personal gain, and the entire movement feels like a big “if you do this you’ll feel this and in order to feel this all the time you must do this all the time” which is one big cycle that never ends.

    and true self care… is way more than just doing certain things to feel certain ways. and i love that you’re talking about it. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes yes yesss, thank you for saying that Jo, because DEFINITELY. If someone is “sticking it out” just for the sake of sticking it out because they feel like they should… it’s probably time to leave. XD Motivations are important! And yeah, people could twist the “be selfless card” (especially depending on personalities and all) to become an excuse for abuse. Nope. Not good. If you’re in an abusive situation, you’re not helping the other person by staying – you’re just hurting yourself. So yeah, thanks for pointing that out because I totally agree. πŸ™‚

      Yeah, I think self-care is too hyped up too – it can help you but it can’t save you; only God can do that!

      Definitely. ❀ And thanks again for the excellent comment, Jo!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. *tries to put the beautiful-ness (is that a word? XD) of that post into words* This was spot on and well, just wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!! ❀ ❀ I really really enjoyed reading this. πŸ™‚

    -Laura ❀ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with you to an extent. I think people prejudge self-care without fully understanding it. Self-care is more like taking care of yourself while managing with the daily ups and down we experience with life. Everyday, people are going above and beyond to help someone and when they stop to make sure they are good themselves, because let’s be real we still have to think about ourselves, people think that and categorize it as a person being selfish. Which I think is complete stupidity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm, yes, I think you’re right. It IS tempting for me to categorize self-care in general as selfishness, when that’s totally not true! Proper self-care is necessary and helpful to yourself and to others! It’s all in the balance. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Allison, you worded that so lovely because the truth behind it sometimes we should be selfish and do self-care more than once in a blue or when you have entered a “havoc scenario”. Balance is key and everyone is different.

        Like

  9. Allison,
    I am so glad you shared this! I actually wrote my own blog post on this topic not too long ago (https://dancinandreamin.weebly.com/blog/self-love-is-it-biblical), but I think you may have said it much better. πŸ™‚

    I think I agree with everything you are trying to express here and am glad I am not the only one trying to speak up about this issue.

    There is a really short little book that I read a while ago called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller. I need to read it again because it has been a while, but I remember it having some really good things to say on this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great blog! As a social worker in profession, yet standing on Christian faith. I agree with some parts of this as a professional and as a previous caregiver. As a Christian, I think we have to look at the act of selfishness and how the act has disrupted families in the church, lead to suicide among leaders and as well as the preacher who had a massive heart attack and died because he wasn’t taking care of himself.
    So, the whole self care is oxymoronic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent point! And Sundays are my favorite form of self-care. ❀ Going to church and worshiping the Lord with other people who love God, plus just taking time off of work, is so, so refreshing in all the ways!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You definitely brought up an aspect and perspective I did not think to notice!! You’re totally right. As a fellow Christ follower I think it is so important to focus on loving others (while maintaining our own stability). But the focus of extending Christ’s love is what makes us different and reflects him!

    Liked by 1 person

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