Compassion Hurts

One of the trickiest things about social work (or really any helping profession) is genuinely caring about people without taking on all of their burdens. Obviously most people are attracted to helping professions because they want to do just that: help. However, it’s easy to see why people burn out in social work and related fields. As caring people, there is a tendency to empathize and take on that person’s pain, but you also need to be able to step back and see the problems without being overwhelmed by them. I was recently introduced to the quote below, and it resonated with me. It speaks to the paradoxical nature of being a social worker; you must care deeply but retain a certain level of detachment.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”  – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe

 

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