What follows is an adaptation of an article by Sheri Ferguson that I read in The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s March/April 2006 periodical. The article, titled ‘Compassion Fatigue’, is dealing specifically with natural disaster trauma and recovery from such events as hurricane Katrina but has many other avenues of application. We will choose the avenue where many pastors have either run out of gas, left skid marks lining the street, or drew a crowd with break stands and smoke shows. Welcome to Burnout Avenue.
Pastoring actually is not really that hard of a job. In fact, when it comes to schedules and workload it may seem to some outside observers to be pretty slack. However, any of us who have spent any time at all working as ‘professional clergy’ could tell countless stories of the huge emotional toll and output that a pastor must endure. Though one of our greatest assets may be our passion for people and the local church it also very well may be one of our greatest liabilities. Passion may be the very thing that destroys a ministry.
Passion Fatigue, as defined by postalpedia, is what happens to our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual states of being after prolonged exposure to intensity. We, like that pretty girl who smiled the bright and happy smile of someone who long ago learned not to show what she was feeling, allow the world to see passionate ministry while our own lives are slowly and surely decomposing in the compost heap of ‘blah’.
Symptoms of blah include depression, anxiety, grief, dread, fear, rage, shame, avoidance, numbing, suspiciousness, cynicism, poor self-esteem, sleep difficulties, muscle tensions, headaches, cognitive shifts in how one views the world, family and relationship problems, increases in addictive behavior, and more time spent reading Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. Mark Driscol, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seatte, offers some of his research and idea's here. Worth the read.
Passion fatigue changes who you are.