Posted by: Botolff | September 18, 2009

“Caring For” and “Caring About”

These two concepts, “caring for” and “caring about”, have been milling around in my thoughts for a few months now.  Their presence in my head stems from the question of whether or not the leaders and adult congregants from clergy killing ministries cared about the ministers they ejected.

Many forcefully terminated ministers have lost sleep, and have been emotionally exhausted as a result of one of many important questions they find themselves haunted by…”Did/Do the people of my offending ministry care about me?”  I would suggest, sadly, in many cases…no.  In those cases, if the person cared about the minister at one time, it quickly became apparent that in the end they really cared more about their own comfort level; which leads me back to the question of whether nor not they cared about the minister to begin with.  I’m still formulating opinions, but here is where I think the categories of “caring for” and “caring about” diverge, and are important to differentiate. 

Although not everyone is willing to care for someone, many of us find it fairly natural to reach out a helping hand…or foot.  The other day I was at a park and two boys were kicking a soccer ball around a little ways away from me.  One of the boys kicked the soccer ball right past the other, and over to me.  What did I do?  I kicked it back.  My point?  I knew I should have played soccer!  No, actually, my point is this…I cared for those two boys.  I could have let them chase the ball themselves, and on a different day may have done just that.  But this time I didn’t, and I am glad I can say I cared for them.  However, does that mean that I cared about them as well?  Maybe, but that wouldn’t be determined in that moment, because I didn’t have a need to find out.  Here’s my rationale… 

I believe often, if we care, we care for people, but may not care about them.  What’s the difference?  I think it comes down to what we are willing to bleed for.  The level we care about someone, is the extent to which we are willing to fight for them.  I’m not talking specifically about a fist fight, although that may be necessary in some cases.  I’m talking about standing up for someone when it hurts.  If a man was trying to kidnap one of those boys, I would say my actions would determine how much I cared about the boy.  We will be able to determine how much we care about someone/something according to how much pain we are willing to endure; and many times we are the most committed to protecting ourselves and hurting as little as possible.  To truly care about someone requires a willingness to pay a severe price to protect them when they are in danger, and as a result, maybe so are we. 

Martin Luther King Jr. cared about the African-American people, and the reconciliation of all people to each other.
William Wallace cared about the freedom of the Scottish people.
Mother Teresa cared about the people in Calcutta.
Patch Adams cared about the underprivileged and their need for healthcare. 
Sgt. Jared Monti cared about his men in Afghanistan.
Nancy Murphy cares about domestic violence victims.
Jesus, in his days on this earth, cared about each and every person enough to speak to and about them according to his knowledge and experience of them; despite his tendency to rally the unpopular vote that ultimately lead to his crucifixion by those very people…and the rest of us.

I think Carol, who is living on her roof in Edmonds, Washington, cares about child beggars and street workers in Africa.  Why?  Because she has been living in a tent on the roof of her fabric store for 47 days and counting, and says she won’t come down until she raises a million dollars to help women and children in Africa.  A publicity stunt?  Always a possibility.  I hope it’s true sacrifice.  The kind that holds strong in spite of the negative responses, because it’s what’s good, even if it hurts.  

So, should we all live on top of our church roofs and raise money?  I don’t believe so.  Actually, I think we should sell a bunch of our church buildings, meet in our homes or the local park, and give the money we already have to the people who need it.  But that would require giving up control, risking the unknown, sacrificing our comfort zones, and experiencing some pain ourselves for the betterment of others who are hurting around us.  Now, why would we do that?  After all, we are proving with trackable statistics that many churches don’t really care about the ministers or congregants in their own ministries.  Why in heaven’s name would we sell it all and give up the last bit of control and false security that we have for people we don’t even know?  We won’t even do it for the people we do!

I believe we have some serious work to do, and some of that work is rooted in moving beyond caring for, and determining who or what we truly want to care about.  That will require taking time to count the cost of what it means to bleed for who/what we care about, and then stepping in with much boldness and many bandages together.

Possible next post…”When caring about them is really caring about me.”



  1. I too have thought a lot about these phrases, caring for and caring about, in terms of an abusive relationship I was in for almost 20 years. In fact, these phrases have been key in helping me to move on because I do “care about”.

    Because I cared deeply about this other person, I thought I needed to care for him in ways that were actually destructive for the both of us. Hiding addiction, keeping up a happy face despite the abuse, not letting anyone else know about the truth behind that happy exterior are just a few of the examples.

    In time I learned that because I cared about him, I needed to let go of the caring for him. He needed to take on his own responsibilities, to be successful or crash on his own.

    After 3 years it is still difficult to see the crashes happen and my hope is that in time he will learn to fly.

  2. Thanks for posting Dianthus.

    You bring up such a vital point that could be missed or misunderstood in the way I presented the “caring about” concept. Caring about someone doesn’t mean sacrificing ourselves over and over to an abusive person. It can actually mean not allowing them to continue to hurt us, just as much as it can mean not allowing them to continue to hurt others. Sometimes the suffering we need to go through is releasing ourselves from someone’s abusive behavior and allow ourselves to grieve the loss and loneliness that comes with that.

    It seems to me that fighting for the other in that case is really breaking relationship with them in hopes that they will see their own sin, as well as how they are hurting themselves, and turn to repentance. Maybe fighting for that person is best done by fighting for ourselves and pulling away. To not cut ourselves loose can turn out to be enabling, which I think it can be argued may be a decision to keep ourselves from really going through the hurt that is truly required to “care about” that particular person…and ourselves.

    I’m glad you are free from that relationship and that you have chosen to “care about” from a safe position; one that calls the other person to face more of themselves and decide who they are going to care about too.

    Thanks again for posting.

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