Compassion Fatigue: The Heartache of a Job That Requires All Heart

Anonymous asked a question:

I’m a medical social worker and quite new to the profession. For a long while I had thought that it was what I wanted to do in life. Now… I’m not quite sure. It’s exhausting and I’m not quite sure if it’s beneficial for my mental health in the long run… so many patients to see who need a lot of help but hospitals just want to hurry and discharge them. Part of me wonders if it’s worth it or is it better to just work an unemotional administrative job. Any advice? Prayer please

Hey dear friend, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I also applaud you for choosing your profession. I work alongside many social workers (I’m a hospital chaplain) and y’all are seriously the best of the best.

A few things. If you haven’t done so already, I would consider seeking therapy. It helps. Anyone in the field of service and healing takes on so much, and it’s too much for any one person to hold. It requires processing.

I would find experienced people in your field and be in conversation with them. Process with them. Ask them how they did it and how they continue to do so.

Some hospitals are not like others. I’m fortunate to work at a really good one where the nurses and doctors really care. Your issue might be the place you’re working at.

You had also mentioned it might be better to work an “unemotional administrative job.” I can tell you right now, almost any job is emotional, including admin. It really depends on how your workplace helps you to deal with those things.

Which brings us to “compassion fatigue.” This is a very real issue. Some of us (like me) over-identify with our patients and tend to feel everything all the time. It’s not entirely a bad thing, but it can also be draining. Some of us (also me) have a bit of a savior-martyr-hero syndrome and really need to check our motives. We need safer boundaries and more spaces of rest. We’re likely to pour out so much as if this is “sacrifice,” when really it’s self-harm and it ends up harming everyone.

It’s helpful to know what your rhythms look like. It’s worth asking: When do you get most tired? Most hurt? What do you do for rest? What is your body telling you today? What are your heart and mind saying? How can it be changed for better today?

Two other important things.

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Question: How Did You Know To Be A Pastor?

cait-in-the-making asked:
Hello, I’ve never formally introduced myself but I’m Cait! I love your blog and you seem like a very wise man of God. I’ve been struggling a little bit lately with know what God is calling me to do in my life. I’m just confused on how to know what He is telling me and what I want in my life. How did you know that God called you to be a pastor? I’d really appreciate your input. Thank you.:)

Thank you so much for those encouraging words.  That was really too kind. !!

In 2006 at the JAMA Conference, I felt the calling to be a pastor.  It’s a bit hard to explain.  Like a tug, pull, beckoning, and for the rest of the week, a nagging at the back of my mind.  I wasn’t 100% sure what it meant to “do ministry,” but I was sure I had received a calling outside myself to do it.

That year, multiple pastors I didn’t know told me I should be a pastor.  Opportunities for praise team, speaking, counseling, and teaching opened up.  More encouragement came.  Serious discussions about my future took place.

Up to this point I wanted to be a doctor (in psychology) so I was confused.  For a year and a half I actually did my best to ignore it.  But at the back of my mind, there was always that draw like someone yanking a loose thread.  In my heart that whisper became louder: ministry. And opportunities to teach and lead kept coming.

Continue reading “Question: How Did You Know To Be A Pastor?”