What is Compassion Fatigue?

We’ve had a good couple of weeks so far, haven’t we?

The next “stream” of the Spiritual life that we are going to discuss is “The Compassionate Life.”  However, before we dive into the topic, I’d like to bring something to your attention that is very serious.

There is an ailment that is infecting many well-intentioned Christian people around the world, including myself.  These people are good people.  They are generous people.  And they are sacrificial people.  But this disease is infecting them.

It is called compassion fatigue.

You are probably familiar with the symptoms.  Maybe you are coming down with a case of the sickness yourself.  It begins with a genuine desire to help, especially for the downtrodden.  Acting out this desire to help starts out very well, but even too much of a good thing can lead to hard consequences to life and spiritual health. Without us realizing it, things like social media and the demands of an “instant” society only exacerbate the symptoms. The incubation period is short. The disease becomes contagious when people join the bandwagon of whatever is popular and trendy at the time instead of waiting it out and then sticking around the for long haul.  If it does not fill our cravings to be part of the “in-crowd” of the compassion thing, we find ourselves guilted into it.

When scientists do the research, they find that the catalyst of the “compassion fatigue” is often due to the tendency of people to bounce from one cause to the other. Not always, but often. And all this bouncing produces short-term memory losses. The cause we were excited about last week is forgotten by next week. What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a very simple preventative method that can be employed when spreading things out over the long term.

If not controlled the disease can lead to empty wallets at best and spiritual burnout at worst.

I get it.  This compassion thing is enticing.  Giving toward causes – whether by writing a check or by giving a hand – produces endorphins and one can experience a high when participating in it. But the very thing that initially makes one feel good and empowered may cause one to crash later.  Additionally, the syndrome has similar properties as secondhand smoke, with the potential of actually spreading harm among those in our proximity that we claim to love and care for.  Shortage of supplies for the “doctors” – the missionaries and ministry professionals – leaves them scrambling for resources.  It sometimes comes down to who has the best marketing campaign.  And we are more tired than we were to begin with.

So, what’s the cure?

Do we just stop doing this compassion thing?

I’d love for you to chime in here.

What is this whole Compassionate Life supposed to look like?

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