Compassion fatigue.

Sometimes I run out of compassion. I run out of the capacity to care and to be a nice person. I run out of the willingness to be understanding of the fact that a person’s terrible, trying behaviour is merely a symptom of the fact that they are struggling.

I’d like to be a better person. I’d like to be the sort of person for whom compassion and love is a limitless resource, given to everyone regardless of whether they “deserve” it or not. God knows, there have been times I have received friendship and love and support that I haven’t deserved, that I haven’t earned. I’d like to be the type of person who extends to others compassion and love they don’t deserve, just as a matter of course. I’d like to be the type of person for whom loving and caring comes as naturally as breathing.

Unfortunately, I’m not that type of person. Sometimes compassion is a finite resource. This is something I struggle with, but the reality is that there is only so much to give, and sometimes I run a bit low. Sometimes I let tiredness, or hurt, or impatience get in the way of my compassion. Sometimes I just get sick of it all.

But when I have the courage to express this, the words that I’m greeted with are: oh, thank God. Me too! Thank God I’m not the only one. Because it turns out that I’m not the only human being. I’m not the only one  who struggles to be a good person, to be God in the world, all the time. I’m not the only one who gets tired, and grumpy, and hurt, and simply runs low. And it’s that knowledge – that I’m not the only one – that gives me the wisdom to stand back for a little while, to let others take over the caring just long enough for me to replenish myself. The knowledge that I’m not the only one is what keeps me from berating myself, telling myself that I’m a bad friend and a bad person. Because it turns out that I’m not. Not on this front, anyway.

Thank God.

Incidentally, I think that the fact that I search for compassion when I feel that I’m running out of it is a reflection of the fact that I really am a compassionate person – I’m just a little skint at the moment. And maybe that’s ok.

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