Some measure of compassion is universal.
Every one of us cares deeply about some people; our families, those we feel an affinity for—certainly our own well-being. We all understand selective empathy rooted in self-preservation. It makes perfect sense to be burdened for the safety and happiness of our children, our spouses, the people we live and work closely alongside. This all feels quite normal and it is difficult enough; to experience the pain of others we are emotionally invested in.
But not everyone naturally feels deeply for things and people beyond this close proximity; for humanity as a whole, for the planet, for the welfare of strangers, for the suffering they know exists that they aren’t even aware of. Not everyone is acutely burdened with other people’s pain in such a way that each day brings a fresh wounding. Not all of us spend their lives regularly bleeding for the hurt around them.
And yet if you are such a person, these are incredibly treacherous times because there is so very much to be grieved by. It is a perilous act, simply waking and reaching for your phone and wading into the relentless flood of things capable of breaking a heart. The steady stream of bad news can easily overwhelm those who suffer vicariously. And while others seems quite capable of shutting it all out and resuming normal life, you aren’t—because this is your normal. It is your default setting to give a damn, and for you to try and stifle this guttural impulse is to be less than the truest true of who you are. To do so would be an act of personal treason.
And the problem, is that people who don’t normally feel deeply in this way aren’t equipped to understand the toll these days take on you. They aren’t capable of comprehending the despair that accompanies daily life; the compounding heaviness that builds with each bold-typed headline, with every breaking story, with each bit of graphic video.
I get it. I see you. I understand. I know the invisible weight you’re hauling around lately. And it may not help, but I want you to know you’re in very good company. There is an army of such similarly wounded souls walking the planet right now; people who are equally overwhelmed.
Many people might advise you not to care as much as you do, but I won’t. I know the impossibility of the ask. I know that this is simply who you are, it’s how your heart works. More than that, I know that this is a treasure—this incredible, counterintuitive ability to feel. It is an invaluable gift to the world and it is more precious now than ever. When so many are pushed past the threshold of their compassion by the circumstances, we need resilient hearts that can continue to open themselves to wounding on behalf of others.
And as with all treasures it is costly. This deep empathy comes with sacrifice and sorrow and that’s something you’re going to have to live with, the same way someone oversensitive to ultraviolet rays needs to account for twelve or so hours of sunlight each day. Yes, you need to guard yourself from too much exposure, to shield yourself at times; you need to step away often so that you are not irreparably damaged. That is perhaps the greatest danger for those of us who feel deeply: not becoming compassionate martyrs, not being destroyed by our own hearts, not becoming so consumed by suffering that we succumb to it. Your expiring is not the goal or the desired outcome here, friend, so save some of that compassion for yourself.
But in these days when it is tempting to be apathetic and to turn inward and to say “to hell with it all,” the world needs people who refuse to surrender to the bad news and become calloused and hardened. It needs people who still run headlong into the fray, bleeding hearts affixed to their sleeves; those with just enough hope to believe others are worth sacrificing for, crying for, fighting for, bleeding for.
It needs compassion more than it ever has.
It needs people like you.
Be encouraged today.