In a pub once, a close friend blurted out these words to me:
‘’mate, do you know what you’re problem is?’’…
…‘’ You care too much’’
I have always wondered what motivated his emphatic observation.
Perhaps he saw my struggle with anxiety and depression. My feeble attempts to breathe through a mess that was making a mess out of me? Perhaps, without my knowledge at the time, it was the baggage of a broken existence on humiliating display for all to see.
Today I was browsing through some material I had written back then. As I was doing so I came across a quote from Frank Peretti’s novel ‘The Oath’ that must have stood out to me:
‘…and according to Levi, who believed the dragon was sin, the solution was to get right with God. Find Jesus…With the acknowledgement of God, came a sense that somehow the order of things could be reversed, that destiny could be changed. For the first time, Steve felt hope. Hope made fighting for his life worthwhile. It made formulating a plan worthwhile…’
Theologically speaking Peretti’s moral pivots on a climax. This is identified by the empowering care initiates when motivated by an authentic acknowledgment of God and the hope this inspires. The ”find Jesus” comment is a metaphor for responding to rescue. I say this because in my view it is clear that we cannot ”find Jesus” unless we acknowledge we are first found by Him.
Can we care too much?
That all depends on our understanding of the difference between care for others, self-care and the balance we either find or don’t find in the midst of attempting to do both.
It seems to me that caring ‘too much’ would only occur when we neglect to care for ourselves along side our care for others. Perhaps a good indicator of whether or not our care has become a self-serving, form of ‘blind compassion’ is to position it against the dichotomy between desolation and consolation that Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) unpacks in his 16th Century discussion on ‘Spiritual Exercises’ and decision making:
‘I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord… When it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise. Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord’.
(Loyola, S.E Kindle Ed. Loc: 1533-1534)
‘I call desolation…darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. Because, as consolation is contrary to desolation, in the same way the thoughts which come from consolation are contrary to the thoughts which come from desolation’.
(Loyola, S.E Kindle Ed. Loc:1534-1540)
When we act on consolation we acknowledge the guidance of desolation by rejecting it. In doing so we are empowered to drop all pretences of caring, recover and begin to care responsibly. Here we choose to hope (Heb.6:19). Consequently we love (1 Cor.13) wisely, truthfully and confidently. This act is an exchange, employing faith and trust in response to the Great Care Giver’s faithfulness – the ‘author of peace’ (1 Cor.14:33). Who is carrying out His promise, through His Spirit to never stop acting for us on a plan formulated, worthwhile and cemented in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ (Rev.19:11).
(Updated: 9th Sept. 2013)
This post is otherwise affectionately known as ”How to Vote Like a True Believer”. Playing on the phrase ‘true believer’ and the social shift in the West towards new religions (cultism?) grounded in the hysterical support and fear of political parties.
Gerkin, C.V, 1997 Introduction to Pastoral Theology, Abingdon Press.
Loyola, St. Ignatius The Spiritual Exercises Kindle ed.
Peretti, F. The Oath