Overcoming compassion fatigue
I have not been to Syria - but I love this country, I spoke a few times to Syrian refugees and we are friends with a Syrian restaurant owner here in Berlin. I also do follow the regular blog of the journalist Zouhir al-Shimale, who is writing since February from Aleppo, a northern Syrian city. He describes the fate of hundreds of thousands of people who are bottled up. Aleppo is under siege. Since 2012 this city has been site of the most fierce civil war in the region. Most inhabitants could flee, but hundreds of thousands are still there. Every day houses are bombarded, the latest news included an attack with chlorine gas, the infrastructure already mostly in ruins - the city has no more drinking water, electricity, food or medical supplies. The desperate report by the Syrian journalist sounds utterly hopeless - as all his previous posts.
There are days when I feel I cannot take one more news. This was one day like this. So the question posed recently by The Christian Science Monitor was my question: "How do you keep your sense of empathy in the face of compassion fatigue?" A different question from my question: "When will this end - when will those people be free?"
I prayed and listened deeply for an answer. Compassion fatigue. The answer was already present in the way I tried to come up with an answer: Prayer. I really don't know any other way that is effective, reaches wirelessly every corner on the globe - and is unselfish enough to break the spell of compassion fatigue. So I admitted that there are spiritual solutions at hand, God-given solutions. Solutions that are real, accessible, and at hand. This conviction stems directly from the fact that God maintains His own creation - even if the physical picture, the news say something different. In the Bible I find this: "... we are looking forward to the new heaven and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness." (2 Pet 2: 13, NLT) This world is at hand - God didn't disappear from His/Her spiritual creation. A change of perspective.
My resolve was back and I listened more deeply, longing to love everyone on the planet with a love directly from God, yearning to see Aleppo and its inhabitants from God's point of view. Instead of just buying a desperate report. I was determined to see the truth of God's righteousness right there, as much as spiritually minded individuals in the Bible could see more and help better. They are our distant allies. The Bible is the ultimate "how to help others" book.
So in my prayer about Aleppo under siege I realized how the law of good really empowers us to affirm in prayer the opposite of what a material picture presents to us. And a very powerful truth unfolded itself in my thought: "You know that there are people. Is it truly possible that somewhere a man is - and God is not? Where man is, God is. If there are people, there is God present. Right there. It is impossible to consider man without his source, without his Creator."
So now I had overcome the compassion fatigue. Instead of mentally agreeing with hopelessness and frustration I switched sides and gratefully honored Life as an everpresent resource of health and goodness. Right where destruction, desaster and a deadlock undermine the peace-building and humanitarian efforts, God, Mind, is present and upholds hope, peace-building and humanitarian efforts and the spirit to persevere. Right where senseless violence seems to rule I could see the constructive forces of divine Love at work. I could see the unbreakable link between God and man, and I continue to cherish this specific message: God is where man is. Period. God being Life, Spirit, Love, the reason for existing, the very reason for hope and faith. Psalm 24 has this inspiration for us - a deep insight into the nature of Life, a realistic perspective in our world:
"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him."
Everyone has the same dignity, relevance, greatness - everyone is worthy, important and loved. This insight has its roots in a spiritual perspective, it doesn't play favorites and it shows how and where progress is going to happen. Humility and a quiet stand for what is right is a good start. This is the opposite of being naïve: It is spiritual realism.
Today the only thing I can do for this pressing problem is to see that God is right there. And that He/She has solutions and constructive strength at His/Her disposal that are for real. Man is where God is - God is where man is. No more compassion fatigue.
8/9/2016 06:34:37 pm
Lovely pointed and perfect illustrations
8/9/2016 08:15:15 pm
Thank you for your recent posts Annette- I found the following lines your shared particularly helpful with respect to thinking about the situations in news from other countries needing prayer:
Ruth Anderson Donovan
8/9/2016 08:18:39 pm
I appreciate the picture of the library, still intact, in the city of Allepo, and will add my prayers to your own in support of the journalist reaching out for help for his community.
Ruth Anderson Donovan
8/9/2016 08:22:39 pm
Aleppo, not Alleppo. I cannot read German, but prayer speaks all languages, and Christ speaks to every consciousness appealing for Truth to be made apparent.
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In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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