Monday, 11 October 2021
Title: Compassion Fatigue
By: Ong Hwee Soo

Matthew 5:7
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

This fifth Beatitude is unique and notably different from the preceding ones. In the first four, there is a distinction between the need and the fulfilment: those ‘poor in spirit’ receive the kingdom; those ‘who mourn’ are comforted; ‘the meek’ inherit the earth, and those who ‘hunger and thirst’ are satisfied. But in this Beatitude, “the merciful… shall receive mercy”. It seems to imply that we cannot receive mercy unless we give mercy.

This reverberates Jesus’ teaching in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ and the ‘Parable of the Unforgiving Servant’ that “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt.6:14-15; 18:33-35).

However, even as we look at the apparent conditionality in the text, we must not lose sight of Scriptural doctrine that salvation is by grace alone and not by works. What Jesus teaches in the fifth Beatitude is that when we demonstrate mercy to others, we enable God’s mercy to penetrate deeper into our lives. The act of giving endows us the means to receive and realize mercy.

In his book, ‘Ministries of Mercy’ Timothy Keller writes “The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the Gospel. If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.”

Mercy is not an attribute that arises from our natural temperament. A ‘merciful’ person is “not simply possessed of pity but is actively compassionate.” (William E. Vine, author of ‘Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words’). “A Christian who is merciful feels such compassion and concern that he is not content until he does something about the plight of the one whom he has come in contact.” (Selwyn Hughes). In short, mercy is compassion in action.

At the peak of the present pandemic, many frontliners encountered ‘compassion fatigue’, a term that describes the physical, emotional and psychological impact of frequently caring for others, usually through experiences of stress and trauma. It affects especially caregivers and healthcare professionals, who experience exhaustion resulting in diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others. Tributes have poured in through the media for the frontliners whose compassion fatigue arose largely due to the near collapse of the country’s healthcare system.

Let’s join in the chorus of salutation for our healthcare frontliners and continue to encourage them in their good works. With daily infection cases still hovering around five figures, and considerably high fatalities, may they not take the burden upon themselves. May they be reminded of the motto of William Osler (‘Father of Modern Medicine’): “To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always”. Afterall, according to Osler (co-founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital, USA), “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability”.

Back to our reflection on the fifth Beatitude, Scripture does not insinuate a guilt-producing motivation but stimulates an abundant generosity in response to God’s mercy.

In his same book, Keller writes: “Many people today are very concerned that relief only go to the ‘deserving poor’. However, we must be careful about using the word ‘deserving’ when it comes to mercy. Were we ever deserving of God’s mercy?

If someone is completely deserving, is our aid really mercy?”

How may we enhance our empathy and extend more relief and comfort for the sick or needy?


Merciful God, lead us to Live the Life full of compassion towards others. Amen.


【马太福音 5:7 】

八福中这第五个福是独特的,与前面的明显不同。在前四个中,需要和满足是有区别的:那些 “虚心” 的人会得到天国;那些 “哀恸” 的人得到安慰; “温柔” 的人承受地土,”饥渴” 的人得到饱足。但在这八福中,“怜恤人的……必蒙怜恤”。这似乎暗示着除非我们给予怜悯,否则我们不能蒙受怜悯。

这呼应了耶稣在 “主祷文” 和 “不饶恕人的恶仆的比喻” 中的教导:“如果你们不饶恕人的过犯,你的天父也必不饶恕你们的过犯”(马太福意6章14-15节;18章33-35节)。


蒂莫西·凯勒 (Timothy Keller) 在他的《怜恤事工》(Ministries of Mercy)一书中写道:“怜恤的事工唯一真实而持久的动力是在福音中体验和把握上帝的恩典。如果我们知道我们是单靠恩典得救的罪人,我们就会对被排斥的人和不可爱的人敞开心扉又慷慨。”

怜悯不是从我们的自然气质中产生的属性。一个 “有怜悯” 的人 “不仅具有同情心,而且积极地怜恤。” (威廉·爱德威·范隐,《新约单词评注字典》的作者)。 “一个怜恤人的基督徒对他所接触在困境中的人会感到如此怜悯和关心,以至于他非为他们做些事情,他不会满足。” 塞尔温休斯(Selwyn Hughes)。简而言之, 怜恤是行动中的怜悯。

在当前大流行的高峰期,许多前线人员遭遇 “怜悯心疲劳”,这一术语描述经常照顾他人,通常是通过压力和创伤经历造成的身体、情感和心理的影响。它尤其影响护理人员和医疗保健专业人员,他们感到疲惫,导致对他人的同理心或怜悯的能力下降。媒体纷纷向前线人员致敬,这些前线人员的怜悯心疲劳主要是由于该国医疗系统几近崩溃造成的。

让我们齐声向我们的医疗前线人员致敬,并继续鼓励他们的善行。每日感染病例仍徘徊在五位数左右,死亡率相当高,愿他们不会自己承担这个负担。愿他们想起威廉·奥斯勒(William Osler)(“现代医学之父”)的座右铭: “有时治愈,经常缓解,总是安慰”。 毕竟,根据威廉·奥斯勒 (William Osler)(美国约翰霍普金斯医院的联合创始人)的说法,“医学是不确定性的科学和概率的艺术”。


在他的同一本书中,凯勒(Keller)写道:“今天许多人非常担心救济只会流向 ‘值得救济的穷人’。然而,当谈到怜恤时,我们必须小心使用 “值得” 这个词。我们值得上帝的怜恤吗?



怜恤的上帝,带领我们 活出对他人充满怜悯的生命。阿们。