Compassion makes us human

When we fail to be compassionate, the refrain “Well, we’re only human” is exactly wrong.

I’ve always paid close attention to the news. Indeed, I’ve come to understand my engagement with what the Washington Post’s Phil Graham called “the rough first draft of history” as a token of my Christian vocation to respond to God’s world with attention, compassion, and service.

In recent years, however, I’ve noted a growing and, for me, troubling tendency to disengage. News about imminent climate collapse, as well as war in Ukraine and countless other places, has shaken my desire to attend to what is going on. When one adds to this the ongoing emotional ripples generated in the wake of the pandemic, I want to unplug completely from an awareness of the sheer levels of need and suffering.

I am not alone. A recent Reuters Institute report suggests that there has been a sharp decline in the public’s appetite for news. In the United Kingdom, more than a third of people now say they actively avoid it, especially the weighty stuff, in order to protect their mental health.