Compassion Fatigue

I’m tired.

I go to bed too late. Tick 28 things off my daily list. Balancing home, kids, marriage, ministry-precariously.

I toss and turn, dream heavy, most nights.

I wrestle.

I have always loved causes. Justice. Robin Hood rescuers.

I have taken you with me…we’ve bought chickens and seed in Uganda, sponsored Compassion kids all over the world, sent hundreds of shoes to S. Africa, sent 250 pillowcase dresses overseas,  1000 cans of baby formula to Ethiopia, and 345 of you gave your money towards Mercy House in the last 4 months of 2010. (The list goes on…)

just a glimpse into my garage, medical items YOU’VE donated for Mercy House

When I started my blog, I started it for me. I still write every day-just me and the computer screen, finding out how I feel about something when it leaves my fingertips.

I love mercy.

But in doing so, every time I hit publish, I gamble with giving you compassion fatigue.

I read tweets coming out of the Blissdom blogging conference from a panel on just that topic. I bristled-from guilt and disagreement.

Today, I’m at the Idea Camp, learning and listening, tomorrow I’ll be talking about  compassion fatigue.

And  guess what? I get compassion fatigue-there’s always one more cause…

Bottom line for me: if I have occasional fatigue from all the awareness, how in the world do the poor feel? I imagine they are tired of living without a voice. I assume they worry over their babies dying from preventable diarrhea and about their daughters prostituting themselves for food.

Suddenly, my fatigue doesn’t seem very important.

So, I wrestle.

And I thank God you are in this struggle with me.


  1. 2


    Need I remind you the words you just sent me in an email speaking toward this? Without hearing about the needs, we continue to live our lives content to ignore. And personally, I’m so tired of contentment. Can’t wait to glean from your experience at Idea Camp!

  2. 3


    Oh girl, it’s so true! Sometimes it’s so easy to forget what others are going through daily, with no reprieve… especially when we’re so busy and have so much on our plates. This is such a good reminder. And just reading your passion, your compassion, I feel it. And it’s beautiful! :)

  3. 4


    what an awesome experience for you to be attending this- a very cool organization… and to be able to talk with like-minded people, share ideas and talk about your heart. I feel so honored to have met you and thankful to God for leading me to our church to meet such incredible people who have inspired me- like you!
    I think a lot about this thing “compassion fatigie”- though never have heard it phrased like that! I do often feel weary- there are so many areas to reach, so many causes to support, so many different areas needing help and love and focus on. I sat in a dr waiting room today and saw a young teen foster kiddo with a foster mother who was at the very least disinterested and indifferent about her, if not just plain rude, distant and cruel in her interactions and I thought how much I just want to take all of these kiddos in. I get calls for advice and direction from churches and think “just tell them I’ll take the kids”… and my heart aches.
    Here’s what I’m learning however… I can do what God has called me to do within the means that he’s given me. Do I think that so, so many issues are important and need focusing on? Yes. Do I think that I’ve been called to ALL of them, no. God has made it abundantly clear where He has called me to respond. And when I think about that I think about the Body of Christ… I am the arm in the body (for example’s sake) and if- and ONLY if- others in the body of Christ step up and work as a body should will we be able to cover every area of need, every area of need. Maybe I’m naive in my thinking… but that’s what I think. And so as an “arm” I encourage others to respond to their passion, their calling, to God’s beckoning so that when we all start WORKING, all start moving and functioning, then the Body as a whole is an amazing structure.
    It can be so easy to look at the huge needs and become not only fatigued but overwhelmingly paralyzed… and I pray that the overwhelming needs of this broken world will not paralyze but spur us on, encourage us to push aside one more area of contentment.
    I praise God for your commitment and energy and for your heart and for the chance to get just a glimpse into it!

  4. 5


    Yes, exactly. Who are we to get “compassion fatigue?” Not only do people all over the world live in the midst of poverty, war, and AIDS epidemics, but Jesus Christ never once showed signs of “compassion fatigue.” Well, I guess that’s not true. He retreated to rest, and he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Those are the first two that come to mind as possible bouts of compassion fatigue.) However, he never, ever used that as an excuse to stop looking out for the hopeless and helpless, and he certainly never let it keep him from doing what He was called to do.

    If we experience compassion fatigue, it’s most likely due to a fact that we’re relying on our strength and not going to the One often enough to experience His strength through us.

  5. 6

    Amy says

    It’s all about perspective…..and when you’re looking through His eyes it’s heartbreaking. Keep doing what you’re doing:)

  6. 7


    Every time I read one of your posts I think to myself,”I just love this lady.” I don’t even know you but I find what you say so true to me. Kindred spirits in the Lord. You are doing great work. Take a deep breath and rest in Him.

  7. 9


    Thank you for your good words. I pray you feel refreshed, as you gather with other believers who share your compassion fatigue. You’re in my old stomping grounds–enjoy!! I do hope you’re able to get away to Bonefish Grill and enjoy some Bang Bang Shrimp! :-) And then some Cold Stone for dessert! (our friends own that Cold Stone) Although…I’m not sure Cold Stone is gluten free… Stink. Another GREAT and more local place is The MarketPlace. Or for quicker counter-service–the MarketPlace Express(which is right in Rogers). And, YES! They have very yummy SWEET TEA!!

    Look at me–I’ve made this all about food now… Sorry! :-) I can get a little carried away!

  8. 10


    Keep speaking out!! I wonder the very same thing when I hit publish, and I have lost readers, but knowing what I know and living with Kingsom eyes will not allow me to stop.
    My husband just told me that term last night. I have never heard it before. I think he read about it in “A Hole in our Gospel”. Praying for you all.

  9. 12


    Isn’t this the same conference that told women to make their blog posts mostly pictures and very few words? That people today don’t take time to read anything longer than 40 seconds long. ‘Nuf said.

    The devil LOVES to cause doubt (no, blissdom is not the devil) and he saw an opportunity to do so by using your Twitter stream to do it.

    If you want to be pleasing to God, you are going to have to challenge people. When we read in the bible it talks about how Jesus does comfort, but a LOT of what He did was CHALLENGE. Being with Jesus wasn’t always a warm-fuzzy. He called people to act, to sacrifice, to believe.

    • 12.1


      So true….”the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” and he’s soo good at what he does. He can fool us into doubting and he knows exactly how to do that. Put on the armor, Kristen, and keep up the battle!

  10. 13

    carrie thompson says

    I love compassion that I see in others. I love to BE sparked into compassion. I love to be fired up and I love to have passion ignited. I do not however like the guilt that is associated with that. But as much as I LOVE reading about Mercy house or starving children or whatever the current state of affairs ARE.. I just as much as a stay at home mom, homeschooling parent need to hear that your daughter pooped on the carpet and you ARE just THAT family. Do you know what I mean. To me the compassion that I feel as you poor out your story- whether it is Africa or the child in the bedroom two doors down from you.. it is ALL compassion to me. I need both. I dont need to always feel guilty because I cant give to every cause but I also dont need to feel guilty because I feel like my child is the only one who does “x”. So I just think there is a middle ground. I think there is a place—God said feed the poor, tend to the needy, take care of the widows and orphans BUT he also said for the older woman to mentor the younger. He also said to lift up the brother sitting right next to you.

    There is a balance… I pray that you will find that balance, if it is what you are looking for. I am seriously NOT dumping… I am honestly trying to give you a point of view from a COMPLETE outsider to the situation. I give to missions, I hand out food to the needy, I help a brother in need… but I find that I HAVE to have a balance myself. I also just share with my friends, or take my daughter for a manicure…balance.

    I again hope you hear ZERO comdemnation… I really am not even hinting at it… just experessing my thoughts.

  11. 14


    I started praying for you and the Idea Camp last night. I’m praying God works some seriously awesome connections for you.

    Growing fatigued happens, but Jesus knew that this would happen. Thats why he writes in Galatians 6: 7-10: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life. [here is the point on growing fatigued] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (NIV, 2010) And then in Isaiah we have some encouragement in 40:30-31 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”

    So, I’m sending you giant hugs from Pennsylvania. Be encouraged. You are doing soo much and I’m soo proud of you for following HIM and for helping the orphans. When you press that publish button, don’t worry what people think…those in the world of contentment need to hear and see what will move them. I think even you were in that world before you went to Africa….but you saw and you heard and then you embraced and you followed HIM.

    Much Love,

  12. 15


    “Bottom line for me: if I have occasional fatigue from all the awareness, how in the world do the poor feel? I imagine they are tired of living without a voice. I assume they worry over their babies dying from preventable diarrhea and about their daughters prostituting themselves for food.

    Suddenly, my fatigue doesn’t seem very important.

    So, I wrestle.

    And I thank God you are in this struggle with me.”

    Amen, Kristen. Thank you for helping us keep this perspective. <3

  13. 17


    I really don’t believe such a thing as Compassion Fatigue is possible so long as we are in the right “heart” about how we serve. Now, simply being tired or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of evil… that is definitely a problem to face, but is IS surmountable (though, only truly) in and through Christ (at least in my experience)!

    And if someone would say they are tired of constantly doing “good,” then I would think (and maybe say, depending on the day), “Either they are doing it with the wrong heart or they shouldn’t be doing THAT right now…” ‘Cause even in doing good works, we can run faster than we have strength! There is a season for ALL things. There are good, better, and best things we can do and we need to always keep focused on the Best: with the Spirit of our God as Guide we can never go wrong! JMHO, of course.

  14. 18

    Tammy B says

    Keep on going…..tell your story……share your concers! I’ve just started reading your blog and I must tell you while I so love all the “crafty-diy” blogs I need more like yours in my life! We are one selfish nation! Me included, there is so much more I could be doing!!! Your posts make me stop and think…..and I thank you for that!

  15. 20


    I am new today to your blog. I’ve been blog hopping, you know. I agree with you about the compassion fatigue. I am the girl who wants to do it all, help every one. All in the name of Jesus. I do grow weary sometimes. I remind myself often that if God wanted me to so it all, He wouldn’t have created anyone else. I am expected to do my part, and everyone else theirs. What a relief!

  16. 21


    Wow, you have really given us something wonderful to think about. Just trust the Lord to give you His words for your blog. Sometimes He will have you share exclusively about needs of others, sometimes He will lead you in another direction. I love your blog and enjoy your posts and the challenge it has brought to my life.

  17. 22

    Deb says

    Compassion fatigue? Oh please! It’s not up to us to keep people interested. It’s not our work to move hearts. It’s not our choice as to whether the needs of the poor are too much to “pester” people with. God is the one who moves hearts. God is the one who makes people hear. God is the one who sees His work accomplished through very ordinary people. We trust in God – not in the cleverness of our words, not in the desire of people to be involved, not in our extraordinary graphic design and great photos. People who have joined with you in serving have primarily done so (whatever their secondary or more selfish motives might be) because GOD moved their hearts. You keep at it, sister! We love ya for it.

  18. 23


    You’ve never given me compassion fatigue! But I think it’s because your heart truly comes through and it’s not just words for you, it’s LIFE.

  19. 25


    “Bottom line for me: if I have occasional fatigue from all the awareness, how in the world do the poor feel? I imagine they are tired of living without a voice. I assume they worry over their babies dying from preventable diarrhea and about their daughters prostituting themselves for food.

    Suddenly, my fatigue doesn’t seem very important.”

    Bottom line for me: ditto! Please keep sharing like you do!

  20. 26


    I have been reading your blog for a few months, but I think this is my first time commenting. I just wanted to take a second to thank you for blogging about the issues that you do.. I certainly don’t get tired reading about them. Actually, it inspires me and makes me want to do MORE.. it makes me think of ways to help and ways to get others to help, too. I can understand what you mean, though.. on some level. The other day, our heat went out downstairs and it was FREEZING and I caught myself complaining about how cold it was and being frustrated that we had to hibernate upstairs for the morning. And then I smacked myself in the head (figuratively!), because there are people EVERYWHERE who are COLD (and hungry, and lonely, and so forth)… so if I can’t hack it and be joyful about it for just a few hours, I can’t even begin to imagine how low they feel ALL of the time, for months or years on end. The only explanation that I can come up with is that God pulls them through… so that they see hope… so that they don’t give up. And you’re on His team, so he’ll continue to pull you through, too.. so that you can keep on.

  21. 28


    I continue to pray for you, your family, Maureen and the work you all are doing. I enjoy reading what God is doing and learning how better to pray for you.

  22. 29


    I hear you . . . it is easy to feel overwhelmed when you learn the true scope of poverty and pain in this world. I think that’s why God gives us each specific callings. We can each have a profound impact on one thing, one group of people, or one person. If we each pursue His calling, there is hope.

  23. 31

    Tyler says

    I just found your blog and this post and the Orphan Care Isn’t Sexy were the first ones I read. I was in tears. Thank you SO much for writing. PLEASE DO NOT STOP writing about these things and calling attention to the needs of the world.

    My family and I live and work in Afghanistan and find is so discouraging at times because it feels like we are the ‘only ones’, like the western world goes on without giving thought to what the rest of the world is facing. Voices like yours are making a difference and helping people wake up to see the reality of life and the challenge of what being followers of Jesus really means. Thank you for your commitment to this.

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