We pour out compassion for lives razed by wildfire. Our hearts crumble for earthquake survivors. Hurricanes whip at our upraised voices from all directions, yet we manage to cry out for those hit by them, too. When violent crimes and local tragedies claim further victims, our weary eyes pour themselves bankrupt of tears. We reach out, give out, and pray our voices hoarse. Callouses form on our knees. And our dry eyes sting. Another neighbor, sister, colleague begs us for compassion, but the pang has muted to a strange dullness in our chests. As if scar tissue has grown over the breaking places in our hearts. Guilt leadens our sighs. We know we ought to keep serving-listening-loving. In a care-worn year like this, we slouch in utter exhaustion and ask ourselves how we can go on this way.
Those in care professions carry the term compassion fatigue in their back pockets. As if keeping the condition secret will render lay persons exempt from the effects–or worse, the symptoms. Unfortunately, anyone can suffer from compassion fatigue. And with this year’s horrific rounds of tragedy, many of us will.
In fact, ministry tends to face this wall of exhaustion on a regular basis, regardless of world events. Though compassion fatigue pummels pastors and leaders of large outreach organizations, the issue extends to every representative of Christ. All of us have some type of calling to minister to those around us. Responding to the call grants us an opportunity to draw closer to God while enjoying immense fulfillment and growth. But sometimes, it call also wear us out.
So, how do we continue in this wonderful, amazing journey of loving others as Christ loved us? What can we do if our hearts have bled themselves dry?
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In this blog series, we’ll discuss how to relieve and prevent compassion fatigue. Today’s video addresses the following remedies:
- Hit the pause button.
- Disconnect for a moment.
- Drink serenity and inspiration.
- Breathe deep, exercise moderately, and laugh hard.
- This isn’t the silver screen. In real life, lone rangers die. Get adequate support and CALL ON THEM.
- Pay attention to your body and soul’s red flags signaling fatigue.
- Loss of focus and concentration.
- Anxiety or worry
- Loss of motivation
- Stomach or digestion issues
- Heart palpitations or arrythmia
- Increased stress symptoms, such as headaches or escalating blood pressure
- Inability to complete projects or tasks
- Family or friends noting you seem disconnected or distant
- Neglect of personal relationships
- Putting off spiritual devotions, meditation, and prayer time (sermon and lesson prep times don’t count)
- Feeling distant from God or out of touch with the Holy Spirit
- Emotional numbness
- Dissociation, as if not in your body or as if you are walking through a surreal experience instead of reality
- Anger and bitterness
- Judgmental attitudes become an instant reaction
- Avoiding pleasurable activities
- Chronic lateness or missing scheduled activities altogether
- Change in sleep patterns (oversleeping and unable to get up or difficulty sleeping)
- Self-indulgence to escape (alcohol, gluttony, binge-views of television, shopping)
- Working extra hours
- Diminished self esteem
- High expectations of yourself
- Loneliness and isolation
- Feeling as if nothing you do matters (existential despair)
Here are a few encouraging scriptures to revive your exhausted heart:
- “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
- “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16).
- “Yahweh your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring you quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17).
- “And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.(1 Kings 19:5-8).”
- Psalm 31
- Psalm 23
- Psalm 34
- “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
Consider reading the following articles for additional information about compassion fatigue:
- American Association of Family Practitioners (AAFP)
- American Institute of Stress
- Psychology Today
We’ll continue next week with more renewing options to offset compassion fatigue. Until then, please share your thoughts with us. I look forward to engaging with you.