Dealing with Burnout in Acts of Service

We all play our part…and act…and burn out…and are helped or help ourselves to stand up again.

As we struggle against the challenges and frustrations inherent in service, we will find good counsel, many methods, and much support. The particular approach we have shared is just one, to be called upon, as appropriate, in conjunction with others that ring true to particular needs.

The steps we have sought to emphasize, however, should become something more than corrective medicine, as useful as that is. They should embody health itself. We can do more than simply struggle to stay afloat; we can discover a more reliable source of continuous buoyancy. We can do more than cope. We can see now that burnout need not always be an enemy. If not a best friend, it can at least be a catalyst, even a guide, for the inner work, the work on ourselves, which is the foundation of all true service, and the only way, finally, to maintain energy and inspiration. If we can view the places where we encounter fatigue and doubt as clues and signposts for that inner work, our journey will not only go more lightly but go further, deeper. We will not simply survive. We will grow.

Meanwhile, it will always serve to stay grounded in humble respect for all that is involved in the work to relieve suffering – a compassion for ourselves which is the source of compassion for all others. Whatever helpful hints for support and freedom we come upon must be tested against daily practice. We will slip and fall again and again. The struggle between heart and mind is fierce and continuous. The need to see suffering relieved is an essential ingredient of our humanity. Inevitably, we will feel the poignance and despair that arise on those occasions when affliction is not eased; indeed, it grows and spreads, cruel and ominous, despite all our efforts. The pain of the world will sear and break our hearts because we can no longer keep them closed. We’ve seen too much now. To some degree or other, we have surrendered into service and are willing to pay the price of compassion.

But with it comes joy of a single, caring act. With it comes the honor of participating in a generous process in which one rises each day and does what one can.

With it comes the simple, singular grace of being an instrument of Love, in whatever form, to whatever end.


– Ram Dass


Image by Siobhan B via Flickr

3 thoughts on “Dealing with Burnout in Acts of Service”

  1. So beautiful and timely reading this just now. Yes, there is a point of weary over suffering especially as it can be heaped upon in large doses, your own, in loved ones, and in the world which right now seems huge and insurmountable. “The pain of the world will sear and break our hearts because we can no longer keep them closed”. Thank you dear magnanimous soul, still here, always.


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