The End of Compassion

I  recently attended a church service where a missionary couple to Africa spoke. As they talked about the plight of the people, the poverty, the need, the disease….I found myself throwing up walls. Not that I didn’t believe them. I am sure the need is unbearably great. I am sure that the poverty is real. I am sure the desperation is real.

But, our hearts can only break for others so many times. There are millions of terrible stories in the world. The poor, the downtrodden, the hopeless…From teenage girls kidnapped and forced into prostitution, to every neglected and abused child, and the desperate poor all over the world. I can’t take on the emotional burden of sadness around the world.

I can weep for every child beaten and denied food by cruel parents. I can weep for the poverty stricken Thai girl who dreamed of a better life when she signed to be a housemaid in a nice American family, only to be kept under lock and key, forced to sell her body. I can weep for the African children who daily walk barefoot over town dumps searching for salvageable morsels to bring home. I can weep for the pictures of diseased feet that TOM’s shoes donates shoes to help ….I can. It takes just a flick of my mind, and my tender heart breaks.

But, what good does it do anyone? Do these children hear me? Does it make any difference to those girls? And, how much of their burden can I carry? I can’t save everyone. I can’t save anyone. In fact, shifting under the heavy weight of my own burdens, in some ways, I feel I need saving myself.

And as I hear another terrible story…from human rights violations all the way to average people in my town, who daily struggle with their own crippling first world problems…I feel like I can’t take anymore. In an era of ever present media, where social awareness is trendy and fashionable, when is it overload? When does compassion wear thin?

It’s not that I don’t believe it. It’s valid. I bleed for cruel treatment of citizens under brutal regimes, silenced by fear, torture and death. But how much more can I bleed for others? How often can your heart break before it just can’t anymore?

I almost feel I have to be selective in what I “let in,” otherwise I couldn’t bear it. So, it is, I sit in a church service, listening to these African missionaries bleeding their own hearts out with their firsthand accounts of human need and suffering. As the crowd around me sits in hushed silence, with the occasional sniffle, I pull out my phone and browse Facebook.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I can’t let anymore in. The world is a broken and hurting place. And I just don’t have enough tears for everyone.



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