Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Compassion Fatigue

Sometimes I experience what I call compassion fatigue. This is a condition caused by the desire to care about everyone and everything but often being overwhelmed by the magnitude of such caring. There is so much pain and suffering in the world. There are so many people with real and serious problems and issues as well as the many people in our lives who believe their issues are major even when they are not. Whether problems and pain are real or imagined, people need and want compassion. How does one genuinely care about everyone and everything? Even Jesus was overwhelmed at times. Buddha says that all of life is suffering. I read last night that in the Lotus Sutra, Buddha says, "To shine up one corner, not the whole world. Just make it clear where you are". I think it was Mohammad who said, "Just deal with whatever is in front of you". I think what all these great teachers are telling us is that you can't fix everything. Deep in our hearts, beyond what we can physically do, I think it is possible to have a global and universal sense of true compassion. On a practical level, our compassion must express itself in ways that are sometimes small but no less authentic. We are all the center of our own circles and all of our circles overlap. I believe what we are called to do is reach out within the circles we inhabit, and further if we can, to touch those in our lives who need healing, compassion, and a word of encouragement. For most of us our circles include our families, our workplaces, our churches, and our neighborhoods. Sometimes we are blessed, as I am, to be able to reach beyond our circles with such things as the written word. My words through my daily thoughts extend far beyond my grasp. This makes me think of another thought who's author I cannot recall. This wise person said, "If everyone person swept his own doorstep, the entire world would be clean. The same would be true if each person practiced love, compassion, and kindness within the circle of their lives. Love, compassion, and kindness would ripple through our world the way a single stone can cause ripples to cross a lake or a pond. It really is that simple although it is also difficult. Unfortunately we have too many people in the work who spread hate, fear and greed. Good people, wherever they are, must overwhelm evil and suffering with goodness and compassion.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I don't know you and you don't know me, but just wanted to say you resonated inside of me with what you wrote. I finally gave a name to what I had been experiencing as "compassion fatigue". Thank you for sharing your experience with it and thoughts. PS I was googling the words "compassion fatigue" and I came to your blog.