The –isms. Words that have become part of our everyday language. Issues that scream for our attention, our compassion, our consideration. Issues different from one another, but important just the same.
And that’s not to mention so many others we talk about.
Ageism. (I’m kinda sensitive to this one.)
A quick online search for a “list of isms” will produce over 200 words that have become their own distinct belief systems. But, more than that, they are ways of categorizing people or keeping them apart from one another. Worse yet, they become ways of discriminating against people who aren’t like us.
Today’s –isms have created an “us against them” world, and these ways of defining people confront us every day, pointing out differences, promoting hate.
In just the past two weeks we have seen racial violence of the highest order and a terrorist attack like none other. Not to mention that the country of Turkey (and how many others?) is in upheaval.
It leaves us wondering, “How much more can we take?”
I mean that quite literally. When we are bombarded every single day by news of one terrible occurrence after another, all of which we are told to care deeply about, I think we start to wonder how to do that.
How do we stay emotionally engaged with our world when there is so much violence and destruction calling for our attention? How do we love in a world so divided by -isms? We just want a little peace already!
Girls, I want you to know something in order to both guard against it and to deal with it when it happens to you. Compassion fatigue is a real thing.
Sometimes, in response to all of the tragedy around us, we lose our capacity to care. We act indifferent. We may even shut down.
It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we simply cannot.
So let’s say you have a family—you will probably spend the bulk of your emotional energy caring for the people under your roof. That’s as it should be. And then, say, a family member gets sick or you have some big decisions to make about work. More emotional energy used up.
But that’s not all. You have close friends with needs that you should also rightly care about. And a church family full of hurting people who need your attention. The circle of care widens, stretching its boundaries until you think it may burst.
Maybe your community is affected by racial violence, like many in our country did last week. You hurt some more. And then you look around and see that the world is falling apart and protests occur loud and strong, and you realize that there is just so much to care about until your emotional energy is spent.
Our bodies and our minds weren’t made to handle this much sadness. We may even watch the news and feel despair or fear about the days ahead.
My darling daughters, here’s what I want say: Do not give in to despair. Do not fear. (How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear? A LOT!) And do not give in to compassion fatigue.
God, in his wisdom, has given us just what we need to combat the fears and stresses of the world we live in. That’s the great thing about the Bible—it’s timeless. It always speaks to where we are today.
Just last week I read this verse: “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Do you know how comforting that is to me? When I worry about your futures or the futures of the grandchildren I may someday have, when I think about the tragic occurrences of the past two weeks, I can remember that Jesus has it covered. He came to overcome the world and all its trials and tribulations.
He knew there would be terrorism. He knew about racism. He knew that hard days would come, but he’s got it covered already because of his death on the cross.
Here’s what I also want you to know: God does not want us to give up on compassion, but he understands compassion fatigue. Even Jesus had to pull away for a while, to get away from the crowds to pray.
So how should we handle the –isms calling for our attention these days? How do we handle compassion fatigue? I have a few ideas (you knew I would!).
Michah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
1. Pray. We cannot know God’s will for us if we’re not talking to him about it, so pray that God would show you the –isms that he has placed on your heart. We can’t do everything, but we can do something right where we are, so pray for compassion for the issues God has equipped you to care for. And don’t worry about the rest—that’s why there is a huge world with people who care for different things.
2. Continue to seek justice in your everyday life. Again, we cannot solve every problem or fix every person, but we can be people of integrity who watch out for others. This doesn’t mean that you have to stand in on a protest. It simply means that whatever you can do to seek justice, do it. Refuse to overlook injustice when you see it.
3. Be kind. Oh, how our world needs a little more kindness. And it can start with you. Forget cynicism (another –ism!). Forget backstabbing gossip. Forget lying. And just be nice.
4. Walk humbly. Learn from others as you learn from God. Listen well. Love well. Take your eyes off of yourself and make those around you feel like they are the most important people in the room. Pray for humility.
These are the things God requires of us. Nothing more; nothing less.
Girls, as you go out into the world each day, don’t be overwhelmed by the trials. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, seeking God’s will for your life, following his call, and the rest will take care of itself.
He is with you always. Even until the end of the age.
I love you so.