Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How Many Times Can You Break a Heart?

There aren't words.

I am beginning to wonder how many times my heart can be broken for the violence in our world.

In fact, I think the thing I am most afraid of is a national case of compassion fatigue.

WikiPedia.com, while not always an authoritative resource, defines the term as follows:

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as, therapists (paid and unpaid), nurses, psychologists, police officers, first responders, animal welfare workers, health unit coordinators and anyone who helps out others, especially family members, relatives, and other informal caregivers of patients suffering from a chronic illness. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s.

Perhaps you see where I am going with this. I am wondering how many more terrorist acts we can hurt for. For all of the times I have written on social media and been criticized, this past Sunday I was criticized for silence. One of my Facebook friends who identifies and lives as a gay person wondered why me and other Christians were not expressing our outrage over what has happened in Orlando. I will confess that because I was traveling last Sunday morning I was not even aware of what had happened until into the afternoon. But even after I was aware, words escaped me. Although I trend toward a traditional view of human sexuality, I was as horrified to learn of this terrible attack upon humanity as I think I could be. In my heart, it didn't matter if it was a gay nightclub or a church Bible study. My reaction of shock and sadness is the same…

Except for that it isn't. It isn't the same every time. I am noticing in my own heart that each time I hear of a mass shooting or act of violence that it is harder to drum up the same horror. There is a frightening familiarity to each incident that is threatening the very nature of my concern. It isn't the demographic target or the location of the events that are the cause--it is the repetition of incident after incident. It is the culpability we all have, whether we want to admit it or not, to become tired of caring.

Caring about these things takes much personal and spiritual effort. To care for each human being who dies at the hands of another - whether it is at The Pulse in Orlando or at the Peachtree Mall around the corner - takes considerable personal energy. We can so easily develop what I'll call a "compassion callous" that makes it tougher and tougher to get through our emotional "skin." Caring about each person hurts. Hurt eventually breaks us emotionally. So it eventually becomes easier simply to distance ourselves from the source of the pain. We simply turn off the news. We quit reading the paper. We stop caring. We let ourselves get to the place where we are no longer surprised or shocked and we begin to accept a new normal.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right,
for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
-Galatians 6:9 NRSV

Brothers and sisters, we cannot stop caring. We must keep letting ourselves feel the pain of these losses. We must not stop loving people of all kinds. We must resist becoming jaded and crying out for justice in all the wrong ways. We must not grow weary in doing right.

I know it is hard. The times we live in are challenging us in so many ways. More than anything, though, our ability to love one another is being assailed by the spiritual forces of wickedness that all Christians should boldly renounce. Christ has not called us to the easy work, but Christ has called us to the high and holy work.

Lord, may our hearts continue to be broken.