Four reasons Christian leaders can be susceptible to compassion fatigue
As we continue to look at compassion fatigue among African American clergy or counselors, I have identified four key reasons that can make them more susceptible to this ever-increasing crisis.
The absence of self-love
Mark 12:31 says, “…Love your neighbor as yourself…” Self-love is the initial antidote against compassion fatigue and the consensus of the psychiatric community is that ignoring self-care is a critical factor in the development of compassion fatigue. Carl Rogers, a prominent figure in the history of counseling stated, “I have always been better at caring for and looking after others than I have in caring for myself.” You cannot effectively care for anyone if you don’t care for your greatest asset: YOU.
Dealing with unresolved personal issues
No one is exempt from human pain and suffering sometimes the counselor needs a counselor. According to psychotherapist Alison Barr, “73.9% of counselors and psychotherapists have experienced one or more wounding experiences leading to career choice.” Due to the nature of our profession, it can make us consciously aware of our wounds which can make us more vulnerable to secondary trauma.
Therefore, our inability to deal with your unresolved issues skews our perception and can rob our patients of an authentic experience. Root issues of bitterness, grief, anger, rejection, and abuse, can be intricate and intertwine themselves around every aspect of our lives. These root issues are the things that lie just beneath the surface and we spend enormous amounts of money, energy, and time dealing with the fruit that will only continue to grow if the roots are not destroyed. Jesus said in Luke 3:9, “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree,” anything ignored is permitted to grow.
Understanding the natural root system of plants provides a visual of how deadly these issues can be. You can pull weeds all day long, but until you dig up the roots, your yard will be covered with weeds again in a matter of weeks. The root systems in plants are intricately designed and driven to make sure the plant they are supporting lives, grows and thrives. God wants us to prosper as our souls prosper and the prosperity of the soul determines the longevity, effectiveness, and magnitude with which we maximize our lives and the lives of others.
Ignoring the role of the Holy Spirit
As it relates to counselors, John 14:26 refers to the Holy Spirit as our advocate, counselor, and comforter. It is imperative to remember that we are working with the Holy Spirit He is not working with us. As the primary counselor, He will make available to us the information we need to make the counseling or spiritual encounter effective. One Christian counselor quoted, “It’s amazing to me how the Holy Spirit always reveals to me more and gives me the breakthrough information I need.” The information that the Holy Spirit gives is so important because the patient may not be aware of this information or unable to articulate. Effective counseling cannot be done apart from him. Because His work is regenerative the overflowing aspect releases the empowerment that takes us beyond mere human capacity.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). Spiritual fatigue is a sign that not only your body is tired, but your soul is as well. Somewhere along the line you got disconnected and need to reconnect. God rested on the 7th day and Jesus constantly demonstrated a need to pull away from the crowd. You can only do what you are humanly capable of doing, therefore, a good practice can be to leave the office after 8 hours and schedule regular vacation times.
Regrouping, refreshing and replenishing are keys to an effective practice or ministry and tools to utilize in bringing our lives back into balance. If we remember that the ministry belongs to God, we are assured that He can effectively manage it in our absence. If we think it belongs to us, then we are under the assumption that there is no room for us to leave or everything is going to fall apart. Make the opportunity to reconnect with your family and friends as this can be difficult at times due to the nature of the work. Fully enjoy the life that you have been given.
Written by Yvonne Camper