Uncertain Faith

Finding the courgage to live with uncertainity

Sorting Relationships

Butch Rogers

31 Dec, 2017


People in helping professions often suffer from what is known as compassion fatigue syndrome.  This past week NPR had a program spotlighting this syndrome.   The guest were veterinarians who discussed their struggles with depression.  Veterinarians, like other “helping professionals” find themselves dealing with people who are experiencing significant and even extreme trauma in their lives.  “Helpers” take the pain and hurt of their clients, patients and congregants into their own being.  Over time the continual out pouring of compassion on others takes its toll.

As a former minister, I suffered from compassion fatigue syndrome.  I must admit, that I’m still recovering.  Without going into detail, I ended up in what I call the “black hole”.  It has taken me several years to climb out.  Now, I do what is necessary to avoid returning to the dark place that once dominated my life.

As a Christian minister, I believed that God expected me to be there for everyone and treat everyone the same.  I learned the hard way that this is not humanly possible.   One of the disciplines that I have embraced is sorting and categorizing my relationships.  Doing so helps me determine how I should act toward those in the different categorizes (also, as an accountant, its how my mind works).  Here are my relational categories:

1.Those who love me,

2.Those who I associate with,

3.Those who were in my life at one time and who I welcome back when they come back into my life,

4.Those who I want to and need to avoid.

If we are honest, there are only a handful of people who truly love us.  Hopefully, our family and a few good friends are the people in this category.  It’s the people who will surround us when we are on our death bed and who will mourn when we have taken our last breath.  My simple responsibility to these folks is to love them in return.

Outside of those whom I’m very close to, are co-workers, clients, church members, some family members, and friends that my wife and I occasionally do things with.  For the most part, I enjoy these relationships.  I have learned the hard way that I must be somewhat guarded in these relationships.  As I have been told and now practice, its not wise to “spill your guts to everyone”.  My responsibility to these folks is to treat them with respect and kindness.

I enjoy reconnecting with friends and family who were once in my life and who I enjoyed a healthy relationship with.  Its good to cross paths again.  I may not see them again, but I welcome them back into my life and cherish the time we have together.

There are some people I need to avoid.  I avoid people who have hurt me in the past and more than likely will inflict pain upon me again if I’m around them.  I also avoid takers.  I think it’s fair to say, “once a taker always a taker”.

I don’t maintain a list with people sorted by category.  They just naturally fall into a category.  The discipline is to let each person be who they are in your life and respond appropriately.