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ARTICLES >>General >> Prisoners of Compassion >> Related Articles

Prisoners of Compassion 
by Dr. Gerald Trigg 


Henry Nouwen suggested that those involved in the helping professions, whether ministers who happen to be clergy, nurses or what have you, are "Wounded Healers". That title seems particularly appropriate for those who are Caregivers. So frequently such persons are prisoners of compassion. The very word "compassion" comes from the Latin and means "with suffering" or "suffering with". Caregivers, by the very nature of the tasks facing them on a daily basis, truly suffer with those to whom they are bound. The bonds may be those of voluntary love, for love is always costly, it demands expression. They may, on the other hand, be bound by the bonds of obligatory responsibility. The Caregiver is "stuck" with these duties because no one else is prepared or willing to help. In either case, one can become a prisoner of compassion. The vital difference is one of perspective. 

Caregivers would be well served to ask how they viewed themselves. The difference is gigantic when it comes to the power to cope. Depending upon one's outlook one can become either bitter or better. 

My experience in working with caregivers over several decades drives this fact home. Caregivers tend to look upon the life they live as either a gift or an entitlement. If they look upon their life as an entitlement, something due them because the were born upon this earth, then every difficult situation, every accident, every disease, every physical or emotional setback, is looked upon as an unwelcome and undeserved intrusion upon their deserved happiness. Such persons typically become critical, cynical and bitter. They tend to blame God, the physicians, even the person to whom they offer care, for their own bitter fate. Life as they view it is fundamentally unfair! On the other hand, there are those who look upon life as a gift, a boon, something so splendid and undeserved that every breath is a blessing and every hour, an honor. Such persons may begin each day as did a caregiver friend who prayed at each day's beginning: 

Good morning dear God; This is your day I am your child, have your own way. 

With that kind of outlook, such persons tend to naturally reach out to others less fortunate in gratitude that they may do so. As early Christians explained their remarkable capacity to show love: "We love, because He first loved us." 

All of us who would help others do so as wounded healers. Our tasks are not easy, but they are needful. We are at our best when we begin each day with gratitude, offering thanks for yet another day in which to receive and offer love. It isn't always easy; it is always necessary if we -- and those we care for -- are to become better and not bitter. 

Dr. Gerald Trigg is the Senior Minister at First Methodist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


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