From our Pastor 30th January
Natural disasters have a way of provoking immediate and widespread response. We feel for the victims. We feel for them or perhaps with them – we identify with their sense of loss and helplessness. We want to respond with care and generosity. It’s heartening to watch.
What is disturbing is the sense of compassion fatigue that quickly follows. Symptoms of compassion fatigue include feeling burdened, which may lead to becoming callous and disconnected, blaming others, and distracting oneself.
My own view is that corporate compassion fatigue is a growing phenomenon, for several reasons. First, the prevalence of media means that human suffering is always in our face. Someone recorded it on a phone, uploaded it, it’s in the news 24 x 7 – we are constantly made aware of disasters that were in the past, unknown and beyond us.
Second, because the disasters are often remote from us, there is little we can do to respond or alleviate suffering, apart from giving money. I sensed a corporate frustration by Australians that we could not give goods, or host the homeless, or feed the hungry. All we could do was give money. Our channels for expressing compassion were narrow and impersonal.
Third, compassion is a feeling, evoked in response to unfair external events. Compassion in our culture is increasingly about me responding to my inner feelings and doing something so I feel an inner peace.. This is good, but insufficient.
New Testament times were different. Compassion was personal. Visiting the imprisoned, feeding the hungry, nurturing the sick. This in turn facilitate relation connection and sharing.
There are valid, and invalid reasons why you may feel numb after the bushfires.