Christians around the world are being infected with a disease. If left unchecked, the spread of this disease can cause apathy, detachment, and feelings of insensitivity to the world’s injustices. Striking without warning, this disease can hit at any time. I, myself, have suffered from it.
It’s called compassion fatigue.
Defining the Disease
Julia Mateer describes compassion fatigue as “an overwhelming feeling of negativity, both emotional and physical fatigue, and an underlying sense of hopelessness.” A person can easily become discouraged when plagued by the overwhelming task ahead: What can I really do to help the 750 million people around the world who lack access to clean water? How can I stop 21,000 people from dying of hunger every day? I’m powerless to help.
While many would assume that compassion fatigue must affect those who are hopeless or overworked, in reality it will most likely affect people who are exhausting themselves in ministry, those who are simply trying to make a difference but become paralyzed by the weight of the world’s injustices. So how does this happen?
Too Much Information
“24,000 Killed, Injured by Islamic State; Children Used as Soldiers, Women Sold as Sex Slaves.” “21 Million People Are Victims of Forced Labor.” “War Has Forced Half of Syrians from Their Homes.” It doesn’t take long to do a news search of the world’s injustices before you’re bombarded with headlines like these. We live in a media-saturated information age, and we know what’s happening around the globe with just a few clicks of a mouse.1