Friday, March 14, 2008

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion= sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
Fatigue= extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physcial exertion or illness

Wikipedia says of "Compassion Fatigue" :
Compassion fatigue
is a term that refers to a gradual lessening of compassion over time. Compassion fatigue may occur when, due to the media saturation of stories and images of people who are suffering (e.g. images of starving children in Africa, or extended war reporting) people develop a resistance to these images or stories. As the impact of these messages lessens, their willingness to give to causes reduces.

I find this term ridiculous. Please listen to my view, but I would love to hear yours also!

Let me give an example of such an instance wherein this term might be used.
A church (full of people who claim to follow a steadfastly compassionate God) is hosting a
fundraiser/ awarness event to aid children who have watched their families and friends face murder, rape, torture, and starvation. The fundraiser will, of course, include entertainment (for it is taking place amongst Americans), but will also include times of prayer and information sharing as to the desperation of the receivers of these resources and prayers.

One person might warn another who is heavily invested in this fundraiser/ awareness event:
" Don't get your hopes up about people attending and donating. There is much
compassion fatigue in our community because of the many images, stories,
and causes we have already heard about and given to."

The concept of "compassion fatigue" makes sense to me, but this term has got to go.
We would like to think that because we give so much of our emtion, our sympathy, our thoughts, and our money to people in need, that we have grown exhausted. We have run the marathon but need years to recover from the race. Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther Kind Jr and others like them- well they certainly deserve some gatorade and a stretcher (though it must be noted that these people were compassionate unto their DEATH!!!).

BUT US? The average greedy filthy rich (which we are if you compare us to the world) American who's biggest problem is the fact that the Sunday football game interferes with church (or I suppose I should say it is the worship that interferes with the football?)
Im going to go out on a limb here and say it is not compassion fatigue we are facing.
It is the very fact that we do not learn, practice, or know true empathy, generosity,
hospitality, suffering or sacrifice that is our problem. We do not have compassion fatigue-
we simply lack COMPASSION itself!

We can no longer stand the images we see on the TV, internet, or newspapers of people in suffering because of the guilt we feel over standing aside as others die because we hoard the earth's resources. We protect our families, our country, our food, our in-home temperature, our national security, our jobs, our retirement, our RIGHTS, but have we really ventured to the point of FATIGUE in helping others?! We feel ill. We feel drained. We are burnt out. However, it is not because we have given SO MUCH, but because we have given SO LITTLE.
We work so hard for OURSELVES. We pray so diligently for OUR needs. We have so much pity on OUR sufferings.

I suggest, that if you are feeling this sort of fatigue that it is time to stop . It is time to stop giving, working, and thinking over your issues. Time to stop wallowing in your emotions.
And when you happen to look into the eyes of a suffering child on TV and feel bad- hold onto that feeling! Do not let it go. Do not change the channel. WHY? Because you have found it- that feeling is COMPASSION! To look into another's eyes and feel their suffering so deeply that you must spill forth love onto them.

And perhaps you will give to a sham. Maybe your money will go to waste. (Both of these are highly unlikely). At least, though, you have not surpressed compassion. At least you have not ignored those who are being exploited for money. At least you have recognized generosity in giving. At least it hurt to take money out of your own wallet and found a bit of suffering for your loss- that your compassion might grow for the loss of others.

Where your treasure is- in the compassion you have felt for another person, there your heart will rest.
At least call your fatigue what it is : selfishness, laziness, anxiousness, ridiculousness. We all feel this type of fatigue, we are human. But there is One who can plant great compassion in our hearts so that it will not run out. So that you will want to give until your life has been offered.

As for this "compassion fatigue", some call it a euphemism. As a realist, I call it a crock!