Thus, nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which ministers can make their own wounds available as a source of healing. But how well do you understand what it actually means? What is a wounded healer? Simply put, wounded healers offer their hurts to help others receive comfort and encouragement. They share in the sufferings of Christ and they share with other people the comfort of Christ 2 Corinthians
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Thus, nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which ministers can make their own wounds available as a source of healing. But how well do you understand what it actually means? What is a wounded healer? Simply put, wounded healers offer their hurts to help others receive comfort and encouragement. They share in the sufferings of Christ and they share with other people the comfort of Christ 2 Corinthians They become a gentle, strong, and compassionate presence for the people around them.
Being filled with love we can overflow with love to others 1 John so they know they are not alone. As wounded healers in the way of Christ we are like the Psalmist in the Bible. I became increasingly stressed and anxious. Initially my work as a Christian psychologist overwhelmed me. I was constantly straining and burdened. My over-working in ministry and as an author hurt my wife and my young children. So I sought psychotherapy for myself. God lead me to cut back on my work and go on a hiatus from writing books and traveling as a public speaker until our children were grown.
This has re-defined my life. Slipping back into a stress mode of self-reliance or people-pleasing is a recurring temptation for me. How is it that he is speaking to me so directly and clearly? Henri Nouwen — was a Dutch Catholic priest, seminary professor of psychology and spiritual theology, writer, and, most of all, a great lover of God and people.
Mixed in with this were his struggles with homosexuality, which he refrained from acting on and kept his priestly vow of celibacy with love for God and Jesus Christ. He took an extended Sabbatical, which included seeking support from two spiritual counselors. When Nouwen felt the most rejected, depressed, and far from God he visited the Hermitage in St. To understand Henri Nouwen as a wounded healer we need to go back to his childhood.
He grew up with a profound sense of insecurity and shame, especially around his relationship with his father who was independent and busy at his work. I asked that question so often and so persistently that it became a source of irritation to my parents. Even though they assured me hundreds of times that they loved me I never seemed fully satisfied with their answers and kept asking the same question.
In this connection we no longer feel alone and emotionally repressed, but consoled in the grace of God. He becomes the wounded healer that we need. But the idea is not original to him. Most Centaurs were savage, but Chiron was knowledgable about medicine, wise, and nurturing and became famous for his healing powers.
Paradoxically, Chiron suffered from a wound that never healed. Many people came to him at his home at the foot of Mt. Pelion to learn from him and be healed of ailments. Chiron was a wounded healer. Only the wounded physician heals… The pains and burdens one bears and eventually overcomes is the source of great wisdom and healing power for others. In short: Who can take away suffering without entering it? But he also cautioned that this is a hazard for the wounded healers because the distress that is brought to them may re-open their old wounds or trigger repressed inner conflicts.
The Bible is full of examples and wisdom for people receiving healing from God. This is especially prominent in the Gospels in which we see Jesus ministering physical and spiritual healing to many people.
The Lord Jesus commissioned his followers to continue his ministry of healing. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. For when I am weak, then I am strong. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. The greatest complaint of the Spanish mystics St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, was that they lacked a spiritual guide to lead them along the right paths and enable them to distinguish between creative and destructive spirits. We hardly need emphasize how dangerous the experimentation with the interior life can be… [Meditation] practices and withdrawal into the self often do more harm than good.
On the other hand it also is becoming obvious that those who avoid the painful encounter with the unseen are doomed to live a [prideful], boring, and superficial life. Therefore, the first and most basic task required of contemporary ministers is to clarify the immense confusion that can arise when people enter this internal world.
It is a painful fact indeed to realize how poorly prepared most Christian leaders prove to be when they are invited to be spiritual leaders in the true sense. Most of them are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organization, getting people together in churches, schools, and hospitals, and running the show like circus directors.
They have become unfamiliar with with, and even somewhat afraid of, the deep and significant movements of the spirit. It is possible that the Church could be accused of having failed in its most basic task: to offer people creative ways to communicate with the source of human life. But how can we avoid this danger? I think by no other means than to find the courage to enter into the core of our own existence and become familiar with the complexities of our own inner lives.
As soon as we feel at home in our own house, discover the dark corners as well as the light spots, the closed doors as well as the drafty rooms, our confusion will evaporate, our anxiety will diminish, and we will become capable of creative work.
This articulation, I believe is the basis for a spiritual leadership of the future, because only those who are able to articulate their own experiences can offer themselves to others as sources of clarification.
Christian leaders are, therefore, first of all, those who are willing to put their own articulated faith at the disposal of those who ask for help. In this sense they are servants of servants, because they are the first to enter the promised but dangerous land, the first to tell those who are afraid what they themselves have see, heard, and touched. In this sense we can say that the Christian leader helps humans to confession, in the classic sense of the word: to the basic affirmation that humans are human and God is God, and that without God, humans cannot be called human.
In this context, pastoral conversation is not merely a skillful use of conversational techniques to manipulate people into the Kingdom of God, but a deep human encounter in which people are willing to put their own faith and doubt, their own home and despair, their own light and darkness at the disposal of others who want to find a way through their confusion and touch the solid core of life. Yes, yes — you say who we are, you recognize our condition. Teaching in this context, does not mean telling the old story over and over again, but the offering of channels through which people can discover themselves, clarify their own experiences, and find the niches in which the Word of God can take firm hold.
And finally, in this context, liturgy is more more than ritual. It can become a true celebration when the liturgical leader is able to name the space where joy and sorrow touch each other as the place in which it is possible to celebrate both life and death.
So the first and most basic task of contemporary Christian leaders is to lead people out of the land of confusion and into the land of hope. Compassion must become the core, and even the nature, of authority… which is visible in Jesus Christ…. But the danger is that instead of becoming free to let the spirit grow, ministers may entangle themselves in the complications of their own assumed competence and use their specialism as an excuse to avoid the much more difficult task of being compassionate.
The task of Christian leaders is to bring out the best in everyone and to lead them forward to a more human community; the danger is that their skillful diagnostic eye will become more an eye for distant and detailed analysis than the eye of a compassionate partner…. While doctors can still be good doctors even when their private lives are severely disrupted, ministers cannot offer service without a constant and vital acknowledgement of their own experience.
If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness. The tragedy of Christian ministry is that many who are in great need, many who seek an attentive ear, a word of support, a forgiving embrace, a firm hand, a tender smile, or even a stuttering confession of inability to do more, often find their ministers distant people who do not want to burn their fingers.
Such ministers are unwilling or unable to express their feelings of affection, anger, hostility, or sympathy. After so much stress has been laid on the necessity of leaders preventing their own personal feelings and attitudes from interfering in a helping relationship, it seems necessary to re-establsih the basic principle that none of us can help anyone without become involved, without entering with our whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded, or even destroyed in the process….
Person concern means making Mr. Harrison [a year old patient in the hospital who is about to have a life-threatening surgery and is afraid to die] the only one who counts, the one for whom I am willing to forget my many other obligations, my scheduled appointments and long-prepared meetings, not because they are not important but because they lose their urgency in the face of Mr.
Many will put their trust in someone who went all the way out of concern for just one of them. How does our Liberator come? I have found an old legend in the Talmud which may suggest to us the beginning of an answer:. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. The Messiah, the story tells us, is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds only one at a time, always prepared for the moment when he might be needed.
So it is too, with ministers. Since it is their task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for others, they must bind their own wounds carefully, in anticipation of the moment when they will be needed. They are each called to be the wounded healer, the ones who must not only look after their own wounds, but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others. They are both wounded ministers and healing ministers…. The Talmud story suggests that, because he binds his own wounds one at a time, the Messiah would not have to take time to prepare himself if asked to help someone else.
He would be ready to help. Jesus has given this story a new fullness by making his own broken body the way to health, to liberation and life.
Thus, like Jesus, those who proclaim liberation are called not only to care for their own wounds and the wounds of other, but also to make their wounds into a major source of healing power.
Ministers who have come to terms with their own loneliness and are at home in their own houses are hosts who offer hospitality to their guests. They give them a friendly space, where they may feel free to come and go to be close and be distant, to rest and to play, to talk and to be silent, to eat and to fast. The paradox indeed is that hospitality asks for the creation of an empty space, where the guests can find their own souls. Why is this a healing ministry? It is healing because it takes away the false illusion that wholeness can be given by one to another.
It is healing because it does not take away the loneliness and the pain of others, but invites them to recognize their loneliness on a level where it can be shared. Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter which will take their loneliness away…. Ministers are not doctors whose primary task is to take away pain.
Rather, they deepen the pain to a level where it can be shared… so that they no loner have to run away from it but can accept it as an expression of the basic human condition…. No minister can save anyone.
The Wounded Healer
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HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies
I've read only two of Nouwen's books so far, and just from those I can say his books warrant a 2nd and maybe a 3rd reading. His insights are rich, dense, and provoke a lot of contemplation. This is At the very beginning I completely disagreed with the ideas that Nouwen presented in this book.
The Wounded Healer as a Spiritual Guide (Henri Nouwen)
Read more at Author: S. Nouwen; wounded healer; Carl Jung and mythological origins; cognitive dissonance Dates: Received: 30 Apr. DOI: Note: This article is an abridged version of a chapter from Dr. The dissertation was completed in under the supervision of Prof.