Luke 8:54

"And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid arise." Luke 8:54

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Compassion Fatigue (Part I)

Image result for silhouette of someone cryingKind of an odd post title, huh? Let me explain. I recently had the opportunity to take an educational class entitled "Compassion Fatigue". An amazing and incredibly complex subject compacted into one lesson. Compassion Fatigue is exactly what it sounds like. Physical, emotional, mental, and also spiritual fatigue and utter exhaustion that comes from helping other people. Basically, when helping someone else begins to hurt you. Compassion Fatigue, gradually impacts your own capability to experience joy, or to feel and care for others. Whether that is from simple caring, loving, physically helping, attempting to rescue, or actively reaching out as a strong stability and support to someone in need. All of which, IS EXHAUSTING. Real compassion of any sort, will wear you down. No getting around it. And no matter who you are, who you are reaching out to, or how you are actively involved, it will weigh on you in several different ways. In the next two posts, I'd like to talk about both the symptoms and natural reactions of Compassion Fatigue, as well as, how to deal with it. It will help construct you- or -it will destroy you. 

So let's get started. Firstly, I'll touch on what can sometimes cause Compassion Fatigue. I don't want to spend too much time on this, however, since each of us could probably present a whole list of our own personal different circumstances and situations that do. Here are just a few I thought of.

  • Ministries 
  • Personal Outreach
  • Evangelism
  • Abortion Abolition Work
  • Crisis Situations
  • Counseling
  • Witnessing
  • Hard Relationships
  • Reaching out to those you work with
  • Listening to someone else's heart
  • Feeling someone else's pain
  • Expectations from others
  • Expectations on others
  • Bearing with someone else's sorrow
  • Difficult situations and circumstances
  • Trials and Burdens
  • Hurts
  • Sickness
  • Prayer and Fasting
  •  Crying
  • Suffering
  • Watching others Suffer
  • Loss
  • Sin 
  • Hardness of hearts
  • Love

If you have any or all of these above, at some point, you will most likely experience what is called "Compassion Fatigue". And it's okay. In fact, it's a good thing. It's just how we choose to deal with it that can be dangerous. It hurts to care. It is not a light thing to truly love someone. Jesus knew this more than anyone.

There are generally two reactions that come from someone experiencing Compassion Fatigue. Imagine with me for a moment... that you are in a rowboat. But not just any old rowboat... a sinking rowboat. Your boat (your life) has come to a crisis point. There is a leak, if not many, in your boat. You are surely, as you are quickly, sinking. You are going to drown if you don't do something. There is land not to far off. What do you do? What would YOU do?

Image result for sinking row boat

If you are anything like my sister, you would naturally row harder. Give it all you've got -plus some. If that doesn't work, you'd probably grab a few more ores than you could even reasonably manage and chaotically scramble to save the boat and all who are inside. You might even endeavor to hand buckets to those around you (especially those who are "in the same boat"!) and expect them to do the same things that you are doing. Save the boat!

This is what I'd like to call the "FIXERS". They try to "fix" everyone and everything. Loss is not acceptable. Patch it. Make it better. Get through. How do they react? STRESS.

To say the least, my sister and I differ greatly in personality. We are opposite, in almost everything...which has proven to be quite comical at times. So, if you are anything like me, you wouldn't row harder. No, instead, you would grab the closest life preserver and jump ship. The boat is sinking... Why waste your energy? Why try for nothing? Why care? Just let it sink and swim for shore. You might be surprised and confused when others, in the same boat as you, don't follow your lead. But you certainly aren't going to be talked into going back. It's a lost cause. Just get out while you still can.

This is what I'd like to call the "RUNNERS". Don't look back. Don't waste your time. Put it all behind you and move on. How do they react? BURN OUT.

Which one are you? If you don't already know, maybe this will help you.

Image result for person with life preserver


is a defense mechanism characterized by disengagement.
Stress, on the other hand, is characterized by over-engagement.

In Burnout, the emotions become blunted.
In Stress, the emotions become over-active.

In Burnout, the emotional damage is primary.
In Stress, the physical damage is primary.

The exhaustion of Burnout affects both motivation and drive.
The exhaustion of Stress affects physical energy.

Burnout produces demoralization.
Stress produces disintegration.

Burnout can best be understood as a loss of ideals and hope.
Stress can best be understood as a loss of fuel and energy.

Burnout produces a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
Stress produces a sense of urgency and hyperactivity.

Burnout produces paranoia, depersonalization, and detachment.
Stress produces panic, phobia, and anxiety.

Burnout may never kill you, but your long life may not seem worth living.
Stress may kill you prematurely and you won't have enough time to finish what you started.

Image result for reaching hands silhouette

What about compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin word, compat, which means, "to suffer with". It has been defined as: "feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken by sufferings or misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate pain or remove its cause."
As Christians, we are more familiar with compassion. Compassion is found all throughout the Bible. Jesus Christ was compassionate. And we are likewise commanded to be compassionate also.

Jude 1:22 says, "And of some have compassion, making a difference:"

I John 3:17- "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"

 "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." (Luke 10: 33-34)

"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." (I Peter 3:8-9)

Obviously, having compassion isn't the problem with "Compassion Fatigue". The solution isn't just to stop caring. In Galatians 6:2, we are told to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." We are suppose to bear one another's burdens. We are suppose to have compassion. We are suppose to care. We are suppose to reach out to those in need. Fatigue is simply part of that process. I think about how Jesus, Himself, had to go away to a place alone and pray. The problem isn't other people's burdens. The problem comes with what WE CHOOSE TO DO with those burdens.
Sure, it'd be nice if no one had problems! If people weren't hurting, and in the process, hurting each other. If there wasn't sin! If souls already knew Jesus! But this isn't our reality. And it's okay. Jesus has a plan through it. He says that, His yoke is easy. That His burden is light.

To be continued....


  1. This is amazing Nay. I really can relate to this. Compassion fatigue is certainly something I've experienced and something I am learning to deal with right now in my life. I know I'm more of a Fixer/Stressor. But honestly I think we can be both. I eventually become so tired of furiously rowing my boat I get to the point where it is tempting to no longer care and I'm ready to "detatch". Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I'm looking forward to Part 2.

    1. Thank you for your comment Toni. I understand. I feel like "Compassion Fatigue" has become a very familiar and regular part of my life now too. :) But God is good. It's okay. :) I love you. Hope part 2 is a blessing. It's more uplifting than part 1. :) haha

  2. I can relate to this and the timing of reading this is obviously the Lord's way of encouraging me...lately I have seen the warning signs of depression and I do not want to go down that path again...I am definitely a Fixer/Stressor, but also as Toni said, can reach that point of wanting to be a Runner, which is kind of where I have been heading lately. So thank you for sharing these words and I am also looking foward to Part 2!

    1. Thank you Miss Donna! I really appreciated your comment. I really believe God gives us specific things at very specific times...and usually it's for others. :) Thank you for the encouragement. Hope part 2 is a blessing as well!

  3. Really liked this Nay, I can really relate to this of late. Especially today. :) I am more the runner I think, I loved the analogy's.
    Thanks for writing and sharing Nay, really blessed me today. Love you,

    1. Aww, thanks Tasha. I appreciated your comment. :) I love you too!