In the medical community we call it Compassion Fatigue. You get it when you are immersed in situations that require constant compassion for others. Once in a while someone manipulates you and it sours you or the constant drain of your energy to take care of someone leaves you exhausted. There are other situations that we experience Compassion Fatigue too. We tire of the dramatic situations of our relationships at work and at home. We get sucked into attention-grabbers on social media and we become detached because none of it seems real anymore. It’s hard to know what to lend our emotions to and what not.
What should we do when we lack compassion?
1) Realize that it’s okay not to get emotionally involved.
Taking good care of a patient or loved one doesn’t mean that you become responsible for them or that you have to be involved more than you feel comfortable. You can listen to friends but you don’t have to offer advice or take on their problems.
2) Don’t confuse compassion with pity.
Compassion is a sense of solidarity with others. You are with them. Pity is simply feeling sorry for them which doesn’t empower either one of you.
3) Recognize when it’s time to take a break.
Working overtime constantly, caring for someone around the clock, or being available to a friend or coworkers around the clock burns you out quickly. Everyone needs to take a break and step away from the situation. That may mean talking to family members about taking turns caring for the ill member. Making sure you are working in an environment that ensures a team approach rather than “one guy that’s the only one that knows how to do a job” syndrome is wise as well. Setting healthy boundaries with friends is vital to lasting friendships. Only you know what those boundaries should be.
4) Transitions happen so go with it.
As a society we fail to recognize that sometimes relationships transition. This is most often relevant in friendships but could happen in marriages or work relationships. Even though you’ve been friends for years doesn’t mean you should hang on no matter how painful it’s become. In the case of work, we often hold onto a job because of the fat paycheck or because we have been there so long that it’s comfortable. The two extremes of comfort are exactly the problem. What good is a friendship if you cringe when the phone rings? How good is a job if you are so comfortable that you don’t think you have to follow the rules anymore or that you come off to others as thinking you are superior?
Compassion is something that most all of us want to have but compassion is meant to be healthy not dysfunctional or codependent. It requires interbeing. We have to remember that true compassion is required in every aspect of our lives starting with ourselves. If we don’t take good care of ourselves we can’t take care of others. We have to balance our lives with alert knowledge and apply it. We have to recharge our spirit with mountain hikes, gardening, social interaction or alone time, taking time to do our favorite things like cooking, painting, listening to music, or taking a run. Our compassion never really leaves us but we do need to give it a chance to breathe.