Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

June 30, 2023

Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout that can occur when someone is regularly exposed to the suffering of others. This exposure can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, a reduced sense of empathy, and a decreased ability to care for others. Compassion fatigue is common in professions that require caregivers to witness the suffering of others, and it can be particularly challenging for those who work in high-stress environments.

How does compassion fatigue affect Christians? Christians who work in ministry are often exposed to the suffering of others on a regular basis. They may work with people who are struggling with addiction, mental health issues, or trauma. They may minister to people who have experienced loss or are in crisis. This exposure to the suffering of others can lead to emotional exhaustion, which can make it difficult for them to care for others. Besides affecting the ability to properly care for others, it leads to impaired ability to care for oneself; and can lead to anxiety, apathy and depression besides the physical and emotional exhaustion.

How can Christians overcome compassion fatigue?

Practice Self-care

One of the most important ways that Christians can overcome compassion fatigue is by practicing self-care. This means taking care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This may include getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and spending time with loved ones. It may also include engaging in activities that bring them joy and help them relax, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature.

Set Boundaries

Another way that Christians can overcome compassion fatigue is by setting boundaries. This means being intentional about how much time and energy they spend caring for others. It may mean saying no to additional responsibilities or taking time off when they need it. Setting boundaries can help prevent burnout and ensure that they are able to continue to care for others over the long term. This is not selfish behavior, but is self-preserving so as to ensure that you maintain your optimal ability to help others.

Seek Support

Christians who are experiencing compassion fatigue can benefit from seeking support from others. This may include talking to a trusted friend or family member, seeking counseling or therapy, or connecting with a support group. Having a support system can help Christians process their emotions and experiences and gain a fresh perspective on their work.

Engage Spiritually

Christians can overcome compassion fatigue by engaging in prayer, Bible study, or attending church. Engaging in spiritual practices can help Christians connect with God and gain strength and wisdom for their work. It can also provide a sense of purpose and meaning that can help them overcome the challenges of their job. Engaging spiritually with other like-minded and purpose-motivated Christians is also one of the ways that God revitalizes us.

Compassion fatigue can be a real and challenging issue for Christians who work in ministry. However, by practicing self-care, setting boundaries, seeking support, and engaging in spiritual practices, Christians can overcome compassion fatigue and continue to care for others with compassion and grace. By prioritizing their well-being, Christians can ensure that they are able to care for others over the long term and make a lasting impact on the world around them. 

By Jessica L. Lozano and Randall R. Phillips, DO, FAOCO, Health Ministries Director