I remember being in social work school and being ready; I was ready to change the world. And at that time, it felt like I really could change the world. It felt like anything was possible. What you don’t learn in school is that the world will resist change. The world breaks your heart. You will never be the same after you see up close and personal the aftermath of child abuse, human trafficking and bigotry. I get asked a lot, “how do you avoid burnout”? I’ve discovered recently, you can’t really avoid it; it’s more about what do you do once you’re there? I’ve been at burnout before, it is a place where your mind, body, and soul are exhausted. You run out of F**** to give. It's easy to see the world through grey-colored glasses, to wonder what difference does it make? It’s also the place where you can convince yourself that “this is just the way things are” and grow apathetic. Yet, apathy is the enemy of social change. The antidote to burnout and compassion fatigue is rest. When it seems like there is no end in sight, and there are four steps back for every one step forward. Take. a. rest. Why? I circle back to Jesus and and he said “come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9) I have to recognize that there are times when I am planting seeds of change, other times I am nurturing that change, and other times I am reaping the benefits of what other people have planted.
Compassion is an ever evolving story of which I can only see a point in time. It is impossible to know the impact a year from now, a decade from now and the ripple effects for generations to come.
We can also recognize that social change doesn’t start with us or end with us as individuals. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) Too often, I am looking at my own limitations, the limitations of the systems and it feels overwhelming. Only in stepping back and looking at the bigger picture do I begin to regain perspective. I am learning to be kind to myself and rest, in order to run further and to renew my capacity for compassion.When I stop and rest, I think about all the good that is in the world and the progress that has been made. I can take it all in and fight another day. I can rely on strength so much greater than my own and serve from a place of joy. I can laugh, I can sing, I can be free. And only free people can break chains of oppression.
What gives you rest?