The Price of Caring

15 Apr

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation or two with a friend who is a psychologist.  We were talking about how helping people is a great calling, but it takes a chunk out of you.  Especially if you are an introvert.  While extroverts actually gain energy being around others, introverts  expend energy to keep up with the social gymnastics of relating to others.  That is NOT a judgement against people, just a fact of introvert-ness (if that is really a word).

The price is higher when you care about others and watch them suffer.  When you sympathize with others, you relate to their pain and their struggles.  You can take on their challenges, and it takes a toll on you.  This is a fact of any and every profession that provides care for others.

I must stop right here and remind you that, while this is a distant cousin of the PTSD-related problems faced by soldiers and law enforcers, it is not quite the same.  The stakes are so much higher for those men and women that face danger and death every day for our safety.  Theirs is a more brutal reality.  The nature of life-and-death is much more near.  “Life and Death” is their reality EVERY DAY.

But, caring for others does its damage in other ways.  In small ways.  You hurt when they hurt.  When they face tragedy and heartbreak, you face it.  You feel it.  And when you multiply each small impact by the number of people in your world, the number about which you care, it takes small chunks out of your heart, your mind, and perhaps your soul.

Then, when you think you have managed the steady flow of tragedy, along comes a betrayal.  Or a tidbit of gossip.  Maybe it comes from someone on the fringe.  Maybe it comes from someone close to you.  And it takes another chunk out of you.

When you love big, you trust.  When the trust is broken, you cannot love “so big” anymore.  And you find it harder to trust.

Last week, I was talking to another friend who is a teacher.  A friend I have known for 20 years or more.  A teacher who is greatly loved and admired by her students.  And she was on the edge…  Her peers tell her she cares too much.  She doesn’t know how to do her job any other way, but it hurts.  The small chunks have become one big hole.  She and her colleagues are praying for Thursday to come quickly, so they can have a time to gather their thoughts, catch their breath, and heal a little before the push to the end of the school year.

A nurse introduced me to the name for this real syndrome:  Compassion Fatigue.  This nurse, who has worked in Hospice, managed cases, and done several other things in her career, told me Compassion Fatigue is unfortunately alive and well in her profession, in my profession, in teaching, in counseling…  Anyone who cares about others will pay a price.

So … if YOU are in a spot where you know this makes an impact on YOU, how do YOU cope??   How will YOU deal with Compassion Fatigue?

I hope and pray that you will find someone trustworthy and TALK TO THEM.  Not saying necessarily that you need to be in “counseling,” but find someone you can trust.  Someone who faces or has faced the same situations you face.  Talk to them.  Drink  coffee with them.  Trust them.  They can probably help.  You might be able to help them.

You and I, we can beat Compassion Fatigue.  But we must be intentional.  Take the first step.

Praying for you today!!!!

A Giant

8 Mar

I don’t know how many years ago it was …  Had to be 2002 or 2003.  My friend Olin Bullock had this friend from Wellman.  A leadership guru.  Olin wanted so badly for his friend to spend time with me and our church staff and he (Olin) funded it and made it happen.

And, into our lives walked a ball of fire, a box of dynamite, and a hurricane all rolled up into a man named Tommy Dowling.

You didn’t have to spend much time around Tommy to realize that he LOVED God with all of his heart.  And he loved The Church!  (The Big C church … the Body of Christ)

Tommy spent a great deal of time with me, a young pastor.  With our staff.  He got to know us.  He gave us the Myers-Briggs.  He broke it down and taught us so much about how we related to each other and how we could identify and relate to others.  And, 99,999 out of 100,000 times, he was DEAD-ON!!!  He had a gift, a knack for reading people and helping to bring the best out in them.

He pushed me to READ.  Gave me books, made me read them, and came back to drink coffee and make ME talk about them.  I will never forget him for this, because he re-ignited my passion for learning and knowing more about leadership.  He reminded me that I will NEVER have it all licked, and I can always continue to learn.  When I stop learning, I start dying.  He was so right!!

One of those times he came to meet with me, he came early and walked through the Ebenezer cemetery.  He was shocked and a little “caught off guard”  (WHICH WAS A RARE THING) when he came across a headstone of a man named Thomas Dowling who had died around 140 years ago.  He told me that drained the blood out of his face for just a moment.  But, I will never forget what he said next:

(It was something like this:)

“When the day comes for y’all to lay me in a grave, DO NOT CRY FOR ME.  I KNOW where I am going, and I will be most glad to be there!!!!

He told me that probably 100 times over the years.

Tomorrow, as his family gathers to honor his life, that is EXACTLY what I will be hearing.  I will never forget it.  And I will never forget him.

THANK YOU TOMMY, for all that you did for a young-un like me, and a TON of other pastors across this nation!!!!  You are a TRUE GIANT in the Kingdom of God!!!

TRUST

1 Jan

Can you really live without TRUST?  From an early age, we live and make decisions based on what we think we know to be true.  TRUTH.  What we TRUST to be the REALITY around us.  Sometimes life does throw us a curveball, and we cannot even explain it.  And sometimes our fellow men and women do the same.  We cannot control LIFE and all of it’s circumstances, but we can control whom we TRUST.

Many years ago, a professor likened TRUST between people to a bank account.  For example:  When I first met you (if I know you), I began to keep a mental account of you and you did the same of me.  Every time I tell you something that is TRUE or do something reliable, I make a deposit in your account and vice versa.  Every time I tell you something that is NOT true or do something that is untrustworthy, I make a withdrawal.

Whether you realize it or not, most of us view relationships that way.  When a person repeatedly tells you untruths or does things that are untrustworthy, they deplete their account and eventually you have no trust left for them.  If and when this happens, they must build that trust back up before the relationship with be healthy.

In other words, if a person is genuine, true, and seems to care, you will naturally trust them more.  If they continue to abuse your relationship and do things that make you think they don’t care, your relationship will run out of gas.

MAKE SENSE???

SO … A great thing to do to start 2019 would be to take stock of the people around you and the way YOU impact those relationships.  I cannot control those around me, but I can control how I respond to them.  And I can choose to bring my best to the relationship!!!

And, so can you!!!

You DO realize people are watching … Right??

2 Dec

Honestly, if there were not so many people using Facebook and social media to contact me, I would leave it all.  In a heartbeat.

Usually when I post something like this, I lose a few friends.  That is quite alright.  You don’t have to read this.  You don’t have to agree.  We can disagree and still be friends.  But I have watched this year.

I have seen friends come to blows over politics.  Over football.  Over things that are really insignificant in the grand scheme of life.

I have watched ministers, and leaders of local ministries, and public servants post things that were the equivalent of throwing an emotional hand-grenade into a crowded room.  And, people fall for it.  And fight.  And it does NOT glorify God at all.  And I know, deep in my heart, that God grieves.  And these men and women are falling into a trap.  They are kissing their credibility to do ministry good-bye.  I know I have lost respect for some people I love in the past few weeks.  It is sad.

And I huff, and I puff, and I try to remind them their words matter.  And my words fall on ears that do not hear and hearts that do not perceive.  (Honestly, I have no idea WHY it grieves my heart so much to watch this, but it does…  I have made mistakes, too.  Maybe that is why I am so aware of this.)

I guess if I could say one thing to EVERYONE, it would be this:  Do you realize the words you share are READ by far more people than you would imagine??  And that they might be making judgments about the Kingdom of God, about YOUR church and ministry, and about our community, BASED on your words??  Whether that be fair or unfair??

I wish EVERYONE would realize that our words matter.  Choose them wisely.  You want to make a splash in your world???  Show them Christ.  Show them positivity.  Show them love.

 

Today I heard his voice

15 Oct

Today I heard his voice.  As I was walking out of a store and a lady was walking in.  She held her arm up high to shield the sun and remarked “it’s so bright today!!”  I answered “Yes, ma’am!”  And I heard it.

I will admit that I hear his voice and I see him ever so often.  I hear his words come out of my mouth and I do an internal double-take:  Did I REALLY just say that??  I see him, not as much in me as I see him in Drew.  He had this way of crawling into the smallest spaces.  Drew has that way.  And, even though Drew never really got to work with him, he works just like him.  And that makes me proud.

When I hear his voice, I miss him.  And it reminds me that I am living a legacy…  Continuing the work.  My dad will not go down in history as a great theologian, but he lived the love of Christ.  To love God and love others.  He showed it in his own way.  I saw it  And now, my job is to continue to live it.

And, not only to live it, but to teach my children the legacy.  And, perhaps someday, grandchildren.  And maybe one day, decades from now, my children will hear voices, too.  And they will see something around them.  And maybe, perhaps, they will think of me.  If only I can do half of the job that Don Wike did.  I’ll be okay!!!

An Open Letter to my LEO friends

12 Oct

I’ve thought about you and your families so much in the past couple of weeks.  The community of Florence, SC, has been through so much.  We are experiencing something other communities have experienced, but it hurts more for us when it hits close to home.  And it has hit about as close to home as it can …

So, I wanted to share some thoughts with you, my LEO friends.

  1.  YOU ARE LOVED.  I KNOW this to be true in Florence, SC.  Floods come, hurricanes roll through, and now even active shooters do their evil.  And, every time, you run toward the danger.  You stand between the danger and me.  Between the danger and the people you serve and love.  And we love you for it.  We are safe because you are there.  Please don’t ever forget that.
  2. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  In past days, people have asked “HOW COULD SOMEONE?  WHY DO PEOPLE HATE LEOS SO MUCH?”  And I know some of you have questioned if you even make a difference.  YOU DO.  Your presence provides safety.  Your presence STOPS tragedies.  Your presence ENDS violence.  Please don’t ever forget that, because WE WON’T.
  3. WHEN YOU HURT, WE HURT.  At least, those of us who pray fervently for you.  We do not know and cannot conceive of the danger you face.  But, when you hurt, we hurt with you.  And many of us will pray and pray and pray for you.  Please don’t ever forget that.
  4. YOU HELP US SO MUCH, THAT WE WANT TO HELP YOU.  I promise that to be true.  I cannot speak for other towns and cities, but I KNOW Florence, SC, does not take you for granted.  And I pray that we never will.  PLEASE, tell us how to help you and we will do it.  I PROMISE!!  Please REMEMBER that!!!

May God bless you, peacemakers!!!!

Church… There is no substitute

24 Sep

There is something about the church.  Something special.  In Matthew 18, Jesus Himself said wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there with us.  Think about it!!

The church brings so much more value into the lives of its family than one could imagine.  We celebrate each other’s victories.  We shoulder each other’s burdens.  We hold each other accountable.  We strive together for a deeper understanding of the Word of God.  We band together to work as one body in this world, achieving far more as one body than we would ever achieve as individuals.  There really is no substitute.

Over the years, I have heard many points of debate about the church and a Christian’s need to be part of it.  “I can worship God on a softball field (or from a boat or a deer stand).”  Yes, certainly you can worship God from anywhere.  But the church is NOT ONLY ABOUT WORSHIP!!

“My children attend a Christian school.  They are getting plenty of Bible education.”  (By the way, I attended a Christian school.  And used that excuse, too.)  If the church were ONLY about EDUCATION, that might work.  But it is not!

“I am involved in a community Bible study.”  That is AWESOME!!  WONDERFUL!!  Discipleship is definitely a HUGE need within the church.  But, the church is not only about discipleship.

I would ask “Where do you practice stewardship?  Where do you engage in ministry?  How do you pour into the lives of the next generation?”  In other words, you need to find a church family.  And be true to that family, wherever it might be!!

And, in all honesty, when we spread ourselves across the community and attempt to replace the church with different activities, 99% of the time we are trying to AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY.  Because NO ONE likes to be held accountable.  But a huge role the church plays in the lives of its family is accountability.  If you walk away from accountability, you will eventually walk away from the family of God.  (I’ve seen that happen, pretty much 99 times out of 100.)

There really is no substitute for engaging in a church family.