On Self-Care

selfcare.jpgMy vocation requires me to give and give myself everyday.  It’s my calling.  I’ve embraced it.  It has its rewards, but so too its challenges.

One of these challenges is compassion fatigue, which is defined as “an emotional and physical burden created by the trauma of helping others in distress, which leads to a reduced capacity for empathy toward suffering in the future.”

After about two weeks of giving and giving, I became a victim of compassion fatigue.  I had to do something.  I got on the phone and called a pastor friend of mine and asked him to lift me up in prayer.

On another occasion, following a tragedy, I was asked what I did for self-care.  To be honest, I was taken aback, but quickly realized that it was one of the most important questions I’ve ever been asked.

My response: I read, pray, and talk with my wife.

The Gospels from time to time would open a window into the inner life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Mark tells us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35 NIV).

Yes, even Jesus took the time for self-care.  It was deliberate.  It was timed.  It was planned.  Those of us in this kind of vocational ministry need to follow the example of Jesus on self-care.

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2 Responses to On Self-Care

  1. Colinn Heath says:

    Ministerial burnout is an ever growing risk. It is part of the experience behind Tony Horsfall’s book “Rhythms of Grace”. No one can give out indefinitely – like any bucket we empty ourselves.

    There are many ways of recharging of course, some of which you mention. Continuing ministerial training may be another. I think it is significant that CoE minsters are advised to take time out in quiet days, retreats etc , a typical number of days each year being recommended. Not all take that one up. My own vicar is perhaps wary of retreats, especially silent ones. He does gain benefit, input and ministry at the New Wine conference.

    I remember 2 years ago after my mother’s demise and a busy 5 months as her Executor closing down her affairs and distributing her estate, I realised how drained I had become. At short notice I was able to grab a space for 5 days at Lee Abbey, a community in North DEvon. It was billed as a Discipleship Week (on knowing the Father’s love and empowering), not even a retreat as such. But to say He met me in a loving healing restoring and empowering way would be a slight understatement.

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