If I am having a really bad day, my mantra becomes, “Who cares?” Here’s how it works.
As I am putting on my socks in the morning, I see a hole in the toe and I say, “Who cares?”
When I open the refrigerator door and see we’re low on milk, I say, “Who cares?”
When I read the tragic headlines in the morning newspaper, I say, “Who cares?”
When I realize I have fifteen important things on my to-do list for today, I say, “Who cares?”
Years ago psychologists gave a name to this “Who cares?” attitude. They called it “compassion fatigue.” Compassion fatigue occurs when we are so bombarded by needy people, critical situations, and serious issues, we shut down emotionally. Our “Who cares?” is really our way of saying, “I have no more energy to care about a blessed thing!”
I don’t like it when I get this way, of course. After all, I am a woman and women are “trained” to be selfless and nurturing. (A male friend of mine did a very thoughtful favor for someone. When I complimented him on his sensitivity, he said, “I like being a man. I get extra credit for every kind thing I do!” He was on to something.) Besides being a woman, I am also a Christian and aren’t Christians supposed to care about things? And on top of that, I am a nun—and aren’t nuns women who, in a way, vow to care—not only about people, but also about every worthy cause under the sun?
All of this led me to wondering: did Jesus ever experience compassion fatigue? Perhaps he did. Remember those times when the crowds just wouldn’t leave him alone? Or when his disciples were so dense they completely missed the point of his teaching? Or all those times he got more than a little testy with the Pharisees? Or when he was so exhausted he fell asleep in a boat during a violent storm and had to be awakened by some terrified fishermen? Or when, in the Temple one day, he grabbed a whip, flipped over some tables, and chased the money changers out of the place? He probably was experiencing compassion fatigue. Maybe he was even tempted to say (at least under his divine breath) “Who cares?”
When I find myself slipping into the “Who cares?” mood, I know it is time. Time for what? It is time for me:
* to get some rest
* to make myself unavailable for a while
* to talk to God and/or to a good friend about what may really be going on in my life
* to rearrange my priorities. Again.
* to humbly acknowledge the fact that I have limits—and I have just reached them
* to say over and over again: I am not the savior of the world. Jesus is!
* and to pray something like this:
Jesus, everything inside me is screaming, “Who cares?”
But you know, deep in my heart, I really do care.
I care about people, I care about faith,
I care about peace, I care about justice,
I care about today, I care about the future.
I am just overwhelmed right now by all the needs swirling around me.
Give me the common sense to deal with my fatigue.
Give me the humility to acknowledge that I can’t do everything.
Give me the strength to know I can do something.
And help me to keep trusting in your unending care for me,
for my loved ones, for everyone, and for our beautiful and needy world. Amen.
The song today is “Sweet Bird” by Joy Zimmerman. When I’m having a hard time caring, I often seek a “dose of nature.” Maybe you do too. Time spent outdoors tends to renew my spirit. Even the song of a single “sweet bird” has the power to revive my soul.
Do you have any response to today’s reflection or song?
Wonderful reflection Sr. Melannie!
I had a just fall asleep on the couch moment last evening. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder to take care myself through you.
This strikes a chord deep within me today. Thank you for voicing my feelings. I’m calling my spiritual director today!
Wow! This world and its problems can really get me down sometimes. Your meditation was just what I needed. I need to remember that “I’m not the savior of the world, Jesus is” and then go take a walk.
Thanks so much for all of your wonderful meditations.
Wow! This is just the way I was feeling a week ago and could not put a name to it. I like the term “compassion fatigue” and appreciate the acknowledgement of this and the list of what I can do when this happens. And I love the prayer. Thank you.
What a great and very practical look at our lives, when we fall into exhaustion with life. Richard Rohr says that nature is our first bible…how true. I think this video shows that very well, from two distinct viewpoints. Your ideas of how to bring ourselves out of a funk are good. Thanks as always for your continued nourishment for my soul!!
We raised our large family on ten acres in rural central Indiana and so often I walked in our valley or sat on the banks of our creek….sometimes with my guitar or my journal. Our youngest daughter built a tree house in a tall pine tree where she used to sit and read or do her homework. The visual of “Sweet Bird” put me back there. It was a much needed respite.
And….you must have been reading my mind……I am so in this place. My husband and I have agreed to take next Monday off and make our own silent retreat at home. All of our mobile devises will be silenced for the day and we will just be….on our back porch…..listening to the birds.
P.S. Thank you so much for the day of reflection in Naples.
Wow! This song was just what I needed after a hectic weekend… Taking care of my 10 year old granddaughter on the weekends, since my daughter passed away… Yet our Sunday Morning Mass together rejuvenates me… Her sweet self is the only medicine I need! I can ‘let go and let God’… Not concern myself about the worldly business that I can’t control… This has given me an inner peace today… thank you so much!
I’m a firm believer that a “dose of nature” can do wonders.
Thank you for this very encouraging reflection,
I feel this way too often and I’m glad to know I’m not alone. Mother Nature’s sounds, especially the birds, are a real pick-me-up for me. Thanks so much for sharing this!
Such a good and “on-time” message today!! I’m going to save your prayer and keep it nearby!! Thank you, Sister!
Just sitting here I take in a deep breath and realize that I had been holding my breath for days…not literally of course lol!
Your reflection, the song and video with it all remind me to BREATHE.
He’s got this, got me, got all of us in HIS care and I can rest if only just a moment to refresh with nature and know that it’s all going to work for the greater good.
Oh those Sweet Birds, such messages they can convey.
We are in the middle of a snow and wind storm today and I feel those birds are all sheltering in their special places getting ready to be those Sweet Birds once again when the weather improves.
This reflection is a keeper!
Thank you! You have given me a term to describe how I feel and refreshing energy and inspiration to let go. I really like the prayer, song, and being ready to breathe.
Thank you for again inspiring my day and life! It is so easy to take care of others and not ourselves. We all need “me” time too.
Thank you, Sister Melannie, for another beautiful, wise reflection and for including my “Sweet Bird” song. I too find respite in nature, and I wrote this song of gratitude for those sweet birds who called to me when the dawn was still dark during a devastating time in my life. Their simple call reminded me that I could go on and face another day. Many thanks for the encouragement and support you provide to us readers.
It’s so comforting to know that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the tensions of living..it gets harder as you get older! I love the song. My first job of the day is to go out and fill up the bird feeders in my back yard. My sweet birds (and, yes, those infernal squirrels) are so grateful.
Thank you Sister.
Melannie, I always appreciate the topics that apply directly to our human condition and how that influences our spiritual endeavors. I was pleased that you included the “Temple” event as indicative of the Lord’s fatigue. I have often thought that the best explanation for that event was that he simply “lost it” on that occasion, which doesn’t seem very divine. But, considering his humanity, it would be quite natural for him to experience “compassion fatigue,” from which he could recover from to face even greater challenges.
Melannie, your reflection made me a bit more care-free for a few moments . . . . and determined to get outdoors for a walk. Thank you so much for surfacing how we really feel sometimes. Thank you for caring enough to share it!
Thanks, Melannie! God bless! This reflection came at just the right time- God takes care!!
Melanie, thank you for the grace-filled retreat I experienced here at Camilla Hall. Your inspiring reflections, stories, books, music, and now blogs have deepened my love for Jesus.
Thank you for sharing the many gifts God has blessed you with! Your retreat was “total gift”!
I will continually give thanks to my God for you!
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First time seeing your blog. Thank you for sharing your talents. Your words are very inspiring. Speaking soul to soul. Uplifting the spirit. So beautiful in so many ways. God bless you always☺
Sure nice to read your little homilies without having to look for a letter Yyou are so in touch with the Holy Spirit,s whispers. I thank God for your friendship
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and prayers. It’s insightful and inspirational.