Care, definition of

I struggle to remember definitions. So when a friend asked me how I would define “care” for a podcast, I had to do some reflecting.

Care is considering the needs of another person, discerning my role in meeting them, and doing as much of my role as I can. 

CareI’ll unpack that in a minute, but I got the starting point from a Greek word: epimeleomai. It means to take care of, involving forethought and provision. Jesus uses this word to talk about the Good Samaritan.

[The Samaritan man] went to [the beaten man] and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Care starts with the other person, not us. It starts with looking at their situation, whether physical, psychological, relational, spiritual, structural. It starts with assessing what they need.

Care moves to discerning our role in meeting some of those needs. You can’t meet all of them. We’re not built to meet all of them. But there are some needs that you are created, trained, experienced, to notice and possibly to meet. (One way to decide what our role is may be to consider what we notice that others don’t. And this discerning process includes conversation with God.)

Care then moves from caring about to caring for. Having seen what you can do, you have to do it. As much as you can, in consort with others who are caring in other ways, without looking for attention, and without downplaying the value of what you are doing.

If what you are built to notice is unheld hands, hold hands. If you see noisiness, offer silence. If you see hunger, offer an apple (sliced). If you see a structure destroying lives and you have the means to bring change, bring change.

How does this resonate with you?

6 thoughts on “Care, definition of

  1. Gary Mintchell

    This meditation brought me back to the day I discovered the malady of us Boomers—narcissism, or it’s all about me. A conversation with a classmate in college about someone where I was expressing some empathy. He said, “I don’t care.”

    Amazing that 50 years later I still remember his comment and thinking “How can he not care?”


    1. Jon Swanson

      It’s possible that this isn’t just a generational malady. It’s possible that there are moments for each of us where we face the question, “Do I care? or perhaps better, “Do I care obout that?” or even better, “Do I care about you, a human?”

      On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 7:10 AM, 300 words a day wrote:



  2. josephruizjr

    It resonates with profound thought provoking clarity. Grace and peace. I have been reflecting on the empowerment dynamic as one way to care.


  3. Renee Raison Storey (@reneestorey)

    I used to worry about not going off to darkest Africa to be a missionary (that would be a HUGE mistake,) or going to hang out with Mother Teresa, etc. But more and more I started to believe in caring for the needs God puts in front of us. For some people, that might be an overwhelming desire to go to Africa or India. But there is also the need to sit with an elderly person and listen to them. To repair homes for low-income people. To teach Sunday School. To smile at someone. A lady in my church used to mail cards with newspaper articles to people who appeared in the paper so that they’d have a copy. She included some kind words each time. That touched me..she didn’t know me well. God didn’t give everyone the task of being Billy Graham or Martin Luther or Mother Teresa. There is importance in caring for the need in your path.
    Thanks, Jon. You make us dig down and think about things that matter.


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