Compassion Fatigue

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live
by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody
that stands right, and stand with him while he is right,
and part with him when he is wrong. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout that manifests itself as physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Clinically it is defined as a more user friendly term for Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder which is nearly identical to PTSD, except it affects those who are affected by the trauma of another, perhaps a family member, friend, acquaintance or client.

Caregivers and therapists/practitioners who serve others are particularly prone to this condition. In the broader picture, I believe that many of us are experiencing compassion fatigue as it relates to the world at large. We are assailed by the news
of war, crime, disease, famine and natural disasters. Reportedly, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocents are being raped, kidnapped, brutalized, tortured, sold into slavery or the sex trade, forced to leave their homes and livelihoods, renounce their religions or be crucified and as is becoming more common, beheaded.

Typically, these are not family members, friends, acquaintances or clients. They are strangers to us in the true sense of the word and yet we are traumatized, and we may become depressed by the knowledge of their situations and circumstances. Worse, we may disassociate from our own authentic feelings and abandon our selves.

Synonyms for compassion include tender heartedness, kindness, benevolence, sympathy, charity, empathy and commiseration. In sum, these words paint a picture of that which is fundamental to our humanity, our deep caring for one another. It exists within the fabric of our beings whether or not it is fashionable ‘to wear our hearts upon our sleeves’ and demonstrate “caring as the only daring.”

Concern for our own safety and security is extrapolated from the media reports that indicate our government, whose primary responsibility is to protect the citizenry, is hapless, and ultimately, corrupted. Understandably, we may feel vulnerable with no place to turn.

President Lincoln was burdened by the unimaginable and yet his courageous words are as compelling today as then. He proclaimed that we seek out the darkness and let our light shine upon it in words and deeds. Gather with those who share the same ethos and together, stand strong. Finally, he expressed his trust in divine guidance and the protection that only God can provide, in this quote:

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming
conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that
of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”