Being accused of over-caring ever since I was a child gives me the incentive to ask an obvious question; Is there such a thing as caring too much? As an eight-year-old girl who fell deeply in love with my newborn sister and wanted nothing more than to care for her, was I caring too much? When my husband takes calls from his mentally ill clients 24/7, does he care too much? As my daughter stays at home and raises her son through his formative years, will she care too much for too long? Watching my friend take off a week of work to travel out of state and ensure that her niece’s wedding goes off without a hitch, do some speculate that she cares too much? Does my friend wonder if their speculations are correct?
Caring is an adjective that means “displaying kindness and concern for others.” It is a noun that means “the work or practice of looking after those unable to care for themselves, especially sick and elderly people.” Caring is also a verb which means “feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.”
Lack of care relates to such things as being careless, cavalier, flippant, forgetful, inattentive, inconsiderate, indifferent, lackadaisical, lax, neglectful, negligent, reckless, and unmindful. It can lack consciousness and in extreme cases become bad faith, corruption, dishonesty, and dishonor. Personality disorders describe an inability to care about others as anti-social and only to care for oneself as narcissism. Being without conscience defines criminal psychopaths.
Caring is an act of a well-formed conscience.
The beauty of a woman is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. ~ Audrey Hepburn
Why then is caring ripe for concern, something at risk of being done too much? The problem isn’t with the caring but rather with managing significant energy. When one’s care is as tall as a skyscraper, as wide as a western sky, and as deep as the ocean, one needs a plan that moderates without hindering an expansive heart.
Care big through steadiness and attention to basic needs.
Those who intensely care risk extreme emotional highs and lows, anxiety and depression, as well as exhaustion and burnout. Carers may give generously to one aspect of their lives while minimizing or completely ignoring others. Here’s the rub. Human beings have basic needs, and there are natural laws that when ignored dole out painful consequences.
There are five broad categories which every person must attend to regularly, even those, especially those, who are saving the world. One’s vocation includes marriage, parenting, creative brilliance and uniquely serving others for the greater good. Strengthen one’s physical body and expand one’s inner life. Perform work and manage workspace. Engage socially with friends and community.
Care big by prioritizing what is most important.
Those who care do so about many things. Carers fulfill duties necessary for functioning families. They listen to their friends and volunteer in their communities. Carers also feel intensely about many things from today’s hot and humid weather to the power-hungry Little League board, and the latest war declared on the other side of the planet. Because carers have an enormous capacity to care, they can take in a lot of noise through meetings, news, and social media. When left unchecked, all of this caring can rile up the mind, exhaust emotions, and deplete the body.
To avoid caring-fatigue, focus on 1-3 priorities in each of the five broad categories with attention to what is most important and will have the most impact then join with others who share these priorities. To care about everything willy-nilly wastes precious energy, is emotionally discouraging, and impedes action which leads to positive results.
Care big by believing others and giving them space not to care.
Carers find it hard to believe that others don’t care. There is the temptation to cajole, bombard, and press others into caring via lengthy monologs, social media blasts, pity parties and guilt trips. All of this devours energy. To genuinely care takes energy-conserving restraint so that respect for others shines first. When an adult says through her words or shows with his actions that they don’t care, believe them. Permission granted not to expend energy on others’ disregard.
Of all the blarney thrown around on this big, beautiful planet of ours, the myth of “caring too much” is one that grabs my heart. Our hurting world needs more care, not less. We need people who care big! Go forward with confidence by focusing steadily on the highest priorities and join with others who care with and for you. There’s no such thing as caring too much.
I’m Angie McIntyre and I believe that care leaders merit support, running is better than complaining, and wellness is for everyone. Do you?