Stone Head from BaliHuman beings are amazing. Capable of ridiculous cruelty and stupid behavior. Able to inspire strangers and show great kindness. Humans are the only animal that can transfer pain to ourselves and literally and figuratively feel for them. It’s amazing when you think about it, this ability to feel for others.

All sorts of inspiring examples have shown up recently. The neighbors who host a pediatric cancer fundraiser each year, even though their children are fine.

The entire town in Texas who is now praying for our nephew Cody. People near and far are donating money and vacation time and supporting his family in other ways while he goes through his cancer treatment.

The food blogging community, who are rallying around a food blogger named Jennifer Perillo. Jennifer lost her husband suddenly on August 7th and asked people to make his favorite pie for someone they love. More than a thousand responded, including my friend Jen from Eating Clean Recipes.

Healthy mini Peanut Butter Pies

Photo by Jen of Eating Clean Recipes. Used with permission.

The outpouring of support for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

Londoners coming together as clean-up crews after the riots.

Compassion’s companion is sometimes “compassion fatigue”—you feel like you just can’t care any more. In fact, it’s not that you don’t care; you get overloaded with pain and shut down.

I hear it when a disaster hits. A friend will admit that they can’t turn off the TV, even though they “feel just terrible.” I saw it in myself, reading post after post about Jennifer Perillo’s loss. How much is the “right” amount of caring, especially when we don’t know the people involved? And what about when we hit overload? Is it necessary or helpful to shoulder another’s pain in that way?

One thing I do is take a moment to separate myself. I ask whether it will actually help anyone else if I continue to watch, read, or immerse myself in the event. Can I be more of service, more effective by stepping back? In our hyper-connected world, we have the capacity to be all-knowing, to be aware of a million sad things at once—a quality once reserved only for God. Unlike God, our brains and emotions can’t handle the onslaught.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment. Take a deep breath. Let yourself be separate and rest. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you’re human. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Today’s post is part of Recipe Renovator’s mission to help you build a healthy life through food and lifestyle choices. Look for recipe posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy ingredients from plants.