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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "fatigue"

I'm not talking about military wear, but mind-numbing weariness.

Fatigue is the worn-down, worn-out feeling when our energy is drained and we don't have the "get-up-and-go" to get up and go. Have you been feeling it? Not just being tired, but exhausted...depleted...

There are many things that can cause fatigue - various illnesses, physical effort, anxiety and stress, mental exertion, emotional strain... And there's something called compassion fatigue, too - a secondary traumatic stress of caring for others, which makes us less able (or unable) to empathize, and more prone to frustration and apathy and even anger. Put simply, it's occurs when we've been caring so much that we are unable to care any more.

It makes sense, because the word fatigue has its roots in the Latin affatim, which means "to satiety or surfeit" - that is, filled to the brim so that you're unable to do any more.

I've had some compassion fatigue recently. As I work from home with my daughter who has to quarantine from her school, as I watch hospitals fill up with people who are sick and dying from COVID (almost all of whom are not vaccinated), as I see people who are still refusing to get vaccinated or do something as simple as wear a mask, I have to admit I have felt frustrated and apathetic at times. And I have heard from a number of doctors and nurses, teachers and parents, and many others who have felt much of the same - people who are trying to care for others, but whose capacity to care and empathize is waning.

But that probably has more to do with us (with me) than anyone else. Because even Jesus felt fatigue, but he never lost compassion.

Briton Riviere, "The Temptation in the Wilderness"

In Matthew 14, Jesus has been traveling around Galilee, casting out demons and teaching and healing. The crowds are following him everywhere. And in the midst of all of this, he gets word that John the Baptist - his kinsman and friend - has been beheaded. You can sense that he is exhausted - fatigued - physically, mentally, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually.

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

It is healthy and good for us to set rhythms and practices that allow us to rest and recover and renew ourselves - to care for ourselves so that we can care for others. Or else we may find ourselves filled to the brim with anxiety, overwhelmed by our attempts to care, and then unable to empathize.

Perhaps, then, we can check in with ourselves - becoming aware of when we have reached our limits (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually)... when we are fatigued.

Are you struggling to be compassionate toward others?

Do you find yourself frustrated or angry, even as you attempt to help or care for others?

What could you do to renew and restore yourself? What practices/rhythms could you put into place?

How could you take care of yourself so you could better care for others?

I hope and pray we will find ways to renew and restore ourselves, so that even when we are fatigued - even when our "get-up-and-go" has got up and gone, we will never lose our compassion for others.

Take care of yourselves and each other,


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