The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff, Bishop Suffragan, shares in a video message about compassion and compassion overload. Watch the message below and see the full text underneath.
I want to talk to you briefly today about Compassion and compassion overload in the stress-filled world.
Fires in California
Floods in Louisiana
Earthquake in Italy
Terror attacks in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East
The plight of immigrants from Syria and other war-torn parts of the world
The faces of children in shock and despair
As we see and hear the news every day, as we wake up to the latest tragedy in our world, many suffer from Compassion Fatigue. It’s recognized as a real thing, a real syndrome. Compassion Fatigue is a condition experienced by those who assist people in distress – a state of tension or preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped that leads to dramatic stress for the helper.
Even if we’re not hands on care-givers who are suffering from literal, clinical compassion fatigue, many of us are suffering from Compassion overload.
How do we get up in the morning and face another news cycle?
How do we think about yet one more crisis in the world?
How do we pray about the latest catastrophe when we are praying for so many others?
How do we incorporate into our daily reality yet one more tragedy?
And how do we act for the benefit of others?
The truth is, no one of us can do it all. No one congregation can respond to every situation in the world, or even in own neighborhood. We can’t personally respond to every need that we see in the world around us.
But for us as Christians, for us as followers of Jesus Christ, the Lord of compassion, there are ways to counterbalance compassion overload and step out in faith.
- We can do something. We can act in response to one situation, whether local, national or international. We can put energy, time, money into something that makes a difference for someone else. No one of us can do everything, but each one of us can do something. No one congregation can do everything, but each one can do something.
- We can take care of ourselves in appropriate ways. Compassion literally means a turning or twisting of the gut. It’s that feeling right down in the base of our bellies when we see the suffering of another. So we need to take care of our gut, our whole bodies, by eating and sleeping and exercising well. It’s not selfish to take a break and go for a walk, or go out for a good meal with friends. Instead, it helps us hold our compassion in strength and health.
- And we can pray. And Pray some more. We can’t hold the pain of the world in our hearts or minds or bellies, but God can – and does. Our prayer doesn’t have to be elaborate or elegant. Sometimes my prayer is, “O God, here’s yet another tragedy, another group of people who are suffering. I can’t even begin to fathom it – so I hold it all up to you.”
Pray for those who hurt. Pray for our world. Pray for your communities. Pray for yourself. Lift it all up to the Lord of Life, who stretched our his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, making himself one with all of suffering humanity. Lift it all us to the Christ of Compassion who showed us how to love and who rose again to give us life beyond fear, beyond despair, beyond suffering.
Compassion overload is real. But God’s compassion is more real yet. God’s compassion leads us through Compassion Fatigue and Compassion Overload to the depth of love beyond our wildest imagining.