My guilty secret
I have a confession to make: sometimes I just don’t care. I’m faced with the pain and difficulties of our world and I can’t seem to summon even an ounce of empathy. I’ve reached my compassion quota, or perhaps it was never that big to start with.
I suspect it’s more than compassion fatigue; it’s apathy, plain and simple. I want to feel concerned. I know I should be concerned. But somewhere along the line I run out of juice. I can’t be bothered to love, and it troubles me.
I poke and prod at my condition and wonder: when did I get so dry, so hard? Because there have been times when I’ve been genuinely raw – when I cared – cared enough to weep for those with whom I have little or no connection.
Perhaps I’m falling into that old, terribly passé trap of believing that because I don’t feel it, I can’t be it or even show it. If I’m honest, the primary culprit is weariness. Unable to bear the problems of others, my mind blocks any feelings of real concern. I’m too tired to bother with caring. How awful, how cruel that sounds! Am I really that unkind? And yet – how terribly human of me.
Recognizing my own apathy, I have to give myself a shove. I kick myself into behaving tenderly, command myself to be kind.
Am I the only one?
Perhaps that’s not so uncommon. Perhaps my guilty secret is true of many people. Even (or perhaps especially) those incredibly beautiful people who seem to have goodness on tap – always showing concern, always reliable in their care of others.
Do I really suppose they always want to be kind? Do I assume that it all comes automatically?
Even when listing those famous components of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Paul implies that we can’t just sit back and expect to exude them effortlessly. Rather, these are things we are to pursue, turning away from our more selfish tendencies. These aren’t just cozy feelings, after all – they are lifestyle attributes, ways of living. This isn’t to say that feelings can’t be complementary, but I don’t think they are a given.
I hope not, otherwise there’s no hope for my chronic carelessness, my anti-feeling when feeling seems to be most called for.
Seeking the Spirit
God is gracious. When I, in all my grumbling apathy, reach out in an act of compassion, God sparks to life what seemed to be dead. In that act of obedience to the life I am called to, something awakens within me. God grants me the very feeling I previously lacked.
I admit, the closer I get to God and his purposes, the more I care. Taking time to be close to him, first and foremost, gives me compassion beyond myself – Holy Spirit style. We can’t display the fruit of the Spirit without the Spirit himself to help us; it’s an oxymoron! But so often I seek the quality – or the feeling – before I think to seek the Spirit.
I should know better. I pray for a change of heart. My confessions of apathy don’t surprise Him. I can’t hide my condition from Him; he already knows. He saw it coming. He knows all the underlying factors and triggers, better than I do myself. My confession before God is an admission of my lack – allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be honest, offering my sickness to the only One who can fully break its hold.
Today I cry out for a kick of kindness, compassion beyond my carelessness – asking God to change me and work through me in the lives of those around me. Even when I feel I have nothing left to give.
Father of all, Lord of everything – you know the stony ground of my heart, the things I hardly dare confess. You know my carelessness, my apathy. Craft a new compassion within me – teach me the art of kindness, that I may love with every inch of me, with every breath.
In Jesus’ name, amen.