Compassion Fatigue Podcast

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Sometimes caring comes with a cost. An emotional tax. Over time we can become spent, tired, irritable and overwhelmed. Living in a world with lots of cares, compassion fatigue is real and is having its impact. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Kathy Knochel and Brian Sutter help us understand how to maintain a measure of health while at the same time engaging in a hurting world.

The brokenness of our world is brought to our awareness in increasing measure. From pandemics, natural disasters, wars, famines, injustice, oppression, mistreatment, tragedy, political debacle and societal changes, we are in no lack of matters for which we are aware and for which we care. If the brokenness we are confronted with in our world at large was not enough, matters of deep care and concern fill our personal lives. Loss, divorce, addictions, aging parents, disabilities, financial hardship and more make demands and draw on our physical and mental compassion reservoir.

In many ways, a reservoir is a good illustration for the capacity we have with care. Matters of concern draw on our compassion reservoir. When depleted, we experience compassion fatigue. The emotional toll that comes when we mentally and physically are spent. When experiencing compassion fatigue, we can become apathetic, cynical, frustrated or exhausted. When we are experiencing these realities, we are not bringing our best selves to the matters we care about.

The answer to compassion fatigue is not caring less. Rather it lies in proper perspective and proper self-care. By attending to these two areas, we can fill our compassion reservoir.

A proper perspective is one that holds our broken reality in a God-oriented world view. This view acknowledges we were not created with the frame to process all the brokenness around us. In God’s perfect creation intent, he intended to keep at bay this darkness. Yet sin defiled our innocence. This perspective helps us understand compassion fatigue is expected. On the flip side of the coin, we understand compassion is actually an attribute of God. It is his reaction to the brokenness we experience. In his likeness, we example his attribute to our world. We fill our compassion reservoir when we understand God ultimately is the savior of the issues that concern us. He is always active. When we are not “on call”, he is. No situation is solely reliant on us. In fact, often God has many other people as active, compassionate, image-bearers devoted to the matters that concern us.

Proper self-care follows from this perspective. Healthy compassionate people regularly rest from their worries. They intentionally take sabbath rest. They give their bodies the physical rest it requires to be effective. They detach their minds from concerning matters. They know where and how to invest their mental space in restorative activity. This can range from taking a nap to exercising; from working on a puzzle to reading a novel; from making music to painting a picture. They also engage in restorative relationships. They invest in relationships that support them in ways of accountability as well as enjoyment. Healthy compassionate people also know what is not restorative to their compassion reservoir. Not all mental escape is equal. Sometimes individuals think activities are restorative when they are not. For example, in an attempt to distract oneself away from cares, they escape to places that stimulate the brain to more anxiety. Social media is one common example of this. Each person needs to know him/herself and what is and is not restorative.

While we were not created for the brokenness we encounter, we were created for the goodness of God’s creation. Wonderfully, traces of that goodness abound. Healthy compassionate people look for this goodness and engage in it. When they do, their compassion reservoir is filled, and they are able to draw on that compassion to minister to the hurting around them. And when they do that, God’s compassion is brought near to this broken world.

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Further Information

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