January 14, 2021 | Loma Linda, California, United States | Carlos Fayard, PhD, for Inter-American Division News
Part 1 of this article was published on January 14, 2021 on this link HERE The following is continuation of that article.
The World Health Organization (1) recommends key strategies that may be helpful to take into account as we, as a church, try to communicate with our own members and communities. For instance, pastors and other leaders may include some of this information in their sermons and webinars.
Let us now turn to what you may consider as an individual to address some of the concerns stemming from pandemic fatigue. Dr. Slovic recommends the following:
You may decrease the impact of psychic numbing by becoming aware of how you respond when you hear a statistic or are shown images related to the pandemic on TV. If you feel that makes you a little numb, you may want to imagine how it is to be in the shoes of one person represented in the statistic or picture. The person has a name, a family and a history.
A Christian Response
It is interesting to note that when faced with large numbers of people in need, the response of Jesus was the opposite of psychic numbing. The gospel of Mathew (9:35, 36) describes that “Jesus went through all the towns and villages. He taught in their synagogues. He preached the good news of the kingdom. And he healed every illness and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt deep compassion for them. They were treated badly and were helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus was not invaded by a false sense of inefficacy given the numbers and the size of the needs. The gospel of Matthew (18: 10-13) quotes Christ words directly, “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. Here is what I tell you. Their angels in heaven are always with my Father who is in heaven. “What do you think? Suppose a man owns 100 sheep and one of them wanders away. Won’t he leave the 99 sheep on the hills? Won’t he go and look for the one that wandered off? What I’m about to tell you is true. If he finds that sheep, he is happier about the one than about the 99 that didn’t wander off.”
Christ was not under the impact of the prominence effect. On the contrary, the gospel of Matthew (20: 28) states that “He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free.”
As a Christian, I am sure that on your best days, you want to be like Jesus. Being like Jesus goes beyond the question “what would Jesus do?” Being like Jesus means that your behavior is motivated by compassion. The secular world recognizes the importance of motivation under our global crisis. As a follower of Jesus, compassion that is being moved to action when we see suffering, is a fruit of the presence of the Spirit in your life. You too may find motivation to deal with pandemic fatigue in your life and in that of those around you and respond keeping in mind some of the ideas shared above.
If you are Christian, like the rest of us, you know that you are only human and far from perfect. At times, you too may feel “helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” If so, bring to mind the words of Psalm 23 (with my observation in parenthesis):
1 The Lord is my shepherd (A shepherd is there to protect. The shepherd may not physically hold the sheep, but is alert to any threats and remains attentive to the needs of the flock). He gives me everything I need (and not necessarily all I want).
2 He lets me lie down in fields of green grass.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths
for the honor of his name (He walks with you when all is well, but this is when we tend to be more forgetful).
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid.
You are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff
comfort me (Yes, He is with you even when feel you are in the darkest moments of your life).
5 You prepare a feast for me
right in front of my enemies (He protects you but not always eliminates difficulties).
You pour oil on my head.
My cup runs over (Think and remember the times when you felt His blessing in your life).
6 I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord
forever (We have this hope! The Pandemic is not the end of this planet’s history or the end your personal history).
May you be blessed and invigorated, welcoming the Spirit to produce a fruit of compassion through these trying times.
Carlos Fayard, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the WHO Collaborating Center in the Department of Psychiatry, Loma Linda University School Medicine, and author of Christian Principles for the Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy.
O’Hara, D. (2020) Paul Slovic observes the ‘psychic numbing’ of COVID-19. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/members/content/covid-19-psychic-numbing. Retrieved 1-8-2021.
World Health Organization – European Region (2020) Pandemic fatigue: Reinvigorating the public to prevent COVID-19. Copenhagen: World Health Organization