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?