Saturday, July 18, 2009

about my heart

I grew up with animals. That sounds weird.
What I mean is, we always had animals around--pets.
We had dogs, cats, chickens, a pony, a rabbit, a duck, maybe others.

I always has such a soft spot for them and would bawl my eyes out over animals being hurt, sick, or killed.

I've hardened. It's odd. We just watched Marley and Me and I only cried a little. I've grown very pragmatic about all that and I feel sad about it. Sad because that part of me is missing and I don't know why or where it went. It makes me feel like I'm mean.

I like animals. I enjoy them. I think they know God. I think they are amazing.
I still miss my kitty that died almost 20 years ago. I understand when people grieve them, so don't get me wrong. But the emotional aspect has changed.

On the other hand, I used to watch the news cold-heartedly. I was never moved by appeals to feed the children or news of genocide.
Now, those are the things that bring the tears. I read the headlines every day and feel my heart crumble a little more.
People in slavery. Fathers who sell their daughters to feed the rest of the family. Children accused of witchcraft. I can't imagine now how I used to be unmoved by these things that wreck me now. I can't even type it without tears.

Maybe my heart only has so much room. Maybe I only have a certain amount of love to give. Maybe for me it's an "either/or" situation. I know people who have both, a deep compassion for animals and for people.

For some reason, for me, it seems it had to be a trade off. I guess that's ok.


  1. Hello Kay -
    There is so much sadness and injustice in this world that we would go insane if felt its entire magnitude. Rationing your compassion is OK. It keeps you sane. And your heart is in the right place.

  2. It sounds like you've moved on to more important issues.

  3. I think animals know God too.

    In response to smithsk I would caution about rationing compassion. The Nazis had compassion for their own families and their beloved fatherland. This rationed compassion of theirs was heinous. I think the point is well meant and that we can't possibly do something physically about every bad situation we hear but we can always be compassionate. If we are to believe what Christianity teaches then we can pray every time our heart is touched by the suffering of another.

  4. You post this the same week I've been feeling guilty for giving Dolly away, and for selling Creampuff. Just remember, the more animals we had, the more chores your MOTHER had. We always had animals when I was growing up. And I am very tender hearted towards them.

  5. Tom, Susan's point is still valid.

    Rationing compassion doesn't lead to nazism and the like. All evil people have compassion for something. That's happenstance, not causation.

    Kay, what scares me is how many people are not only unmoved by these things but they perpetrate them.

  6. Dayle, I believe that Susan's point is well meant but kindly disagree with you that evil people having compassion for a limited number of things is happenstance rather than causation. It is a characteristic of evil people to have limited compassion as you seem to agree and therefore something to be avoided. You may, of course, do what you like. I will not ration my compassion.

  7. I don't know that I ration my compassion, but I allow God to.
    Like Susan said, there is no way I could bear it all and God knows that. So I find at times I am greatly moved and other times not at all. It's not my choice, I think it's God's protection. Only He can weep over every injustice.

    I ask Him for a softer heart. I ask Him to cause me to weep over the things that break His heart. I want to rejoice over the things that bring Him joy. I want His heart.

    I believe both Dayle and Tom are right. I think the attitude, "I'm going to care about my family, but not yours" is evil in itself. It can lead to more heinous evil.
    Or a person can start out with broad compassion, but other evil in their lives whittles it down.

    Some Nazis truly believed that the Jews were enemies of the state. They were willing to fight and die for that belief. They loved their families and their country. I think the rationing of compassion came from the evil of believing satan's lies.

    Other people in that time and place saw the trucks full of people rumbling past on the roads and chose to not care. They had enough to cry about, they felt they couldn't afford to waste the pain on something they could do nothing about.

    Yet, others chose to care, cry, and make a difference.

    I'm afraid that I'm at the "caring and crying" phase, but have yet to move into the "making a difference phase."

    But I'm headed in the right direction, I think. I just can't let it stop here.

    Thank you all for your comments and discussion. I like a lively comment box!

  8. John and I still miss our cat Theresa who died last December. We couldn't even think of getting another cat for six months. Our other cat Amy seemed to mourn the loss, too. Now we're ready to pick up a kitten.

    Animals give us unconditional love. That's why we get so attached.

  9. Yes, Bonnie, they do.

    I also think that we tend to anthropomorphize them, I know I do. And that can make our pain greater, I think.

  10. I have been in the nursing home ministry (and worked in n.h.) for 35 years. A lady in our church is so tender-hearted (as are many) that she cries at every testimony, every song, and she could never be effective in a nursing home ministry because she cannot control her emotional responses. For some reason, I can handle the sadness and sorrows enough to be effective. If I couldn't, I would be standing in a corner bawling all the time instead of ministering to the elderly, etc. There's no way I could count the number of friends I've lost through the years, but I keep doing it. So maybe I ration my compassion a little bit, when I see capable people living off of others instead of taking care of their own. I say, GET A JOB. I don't say, HERE, I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU.

  11. I understand what you're saying, Tom, but everyone has limited compassion. Except for Christ of course.

    I think this is a disagreement of language. If you actively pick and choose, then your caution is well placed. i.e. Jews deserve to die, but my pet mouse needs a softer pillow.

    I think what Susan was saying was you have to make sure that you don't go into overload. If you die of a heart attack because of anxiety overload, then that doesn't help anyone.

    i.e. I want to save every child trapped in sexual slavery, but the fact that all I can do is pray and send a small donation can cause me a great deal of stress to the point of overload if I'm not careful.

  12. Kay,
    Great post. I think that when I look at all the changes that have taken place in me over the years, I too, find places in my heart where I am more or less sensitive. Time changes us. Again great post.

  13. Dayle,

    Let me say again that I'm 100% convinced that what Susan was saying had the tenderest of intentions. It may very well be that our discussion is a disagreement in language as you suggest.

    Maybe I can better explain where I'm coming from if I ask a question: Are you limited in your ability to love? Have you ever had someone come into your life and just couldn't feel love for them because you had reached your love limit?

  14. Tom, interesting that you said "love limit". Some years ago we had so many family deaths in just a few months, that I was so used up that I had no compassion for one of my co-workers who was having financial problems. My first instinct was to tell her to cut out the fancy nails, the long permed dyed hair, the tanning bed, etc., and buy food for her kids!
    My care bucket was full!

  15. I don't think it's the same thing, Tom, but I get what your trying to say.

    Let me give you example. I can't watch that TV show on animal planet where they go and save animals from deplorable and cruel situations. I have to turn my head. Not becuase I decide to no longer have compassion, it's because I have so much compassion that it becomes unhealthy. The only thing I can do is temporarily tune it out because I feel so powerless to do anything to stop it.

  16. I need to explain the care bucket comment. Sometimes I say my care bucket is full and sometimes it is empty. When it is full, it means I have too many things or people to care about and there isn't room for one more. When is is empty, it means I have used up all my caring and compassion and there's none left for anyone else. I think Dayle said it very well. About having so much compassion that it becomes unhealthy.

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  18. Dayle,

    I'm reversing my previous opinion.

    After quite a bit of thought and even soul searching I think I see what you have been saying. I've been doing reading in brain research and there is overwhelming evidence that the emotions that we feel can actually change our brain and in extreme cases the brain can be changed permanently. To feel the "bad" emotions of anger, depression, grief, etc. too much can lead to a downward spiral which, to say the least, reduces the effectiveness of an individual. I think we would agree that the reason for compassion is to move us to some sort of action. So compassion without action (or maybe compassion for compassion's sake alone) can potentially lead to much lower quality of life. Trying to feel everyone's pain might even lead a person to a point where when faced with a situation where they could actually make a difference they are unable to because of a feeling of hopelessness or depression. I have nothing to back this up other than that it seems to make sense to me.

    I am now rationing my compassion ;)

    I appreciate you hanging in there with me. This new insight has freed me in a very real sense.

    Thank you!


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