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Jesus – the original wounded healer

We’re all in the process of going from weakness to strength, from wounding to health. Henri Nouwen understood and exemplified the healing power of weakness. As a Yale professor, he was powerful, but as a volunteer who served the handicapped in L’Arche, he relinquished his power and became a he…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We’re all in the process of going from weakness to strength, from wounding to health.

Henri Nouwen understood and exemplified the healing power of weakness. As a Yale professor, he was powerful, but as a volunteer who served the handicapped in L’Arche, he relinquished his power and became a healer. His insights on the subject are profound:

Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person’s attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.

If you’d like to read more on the subject, I suggest that you get Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. Actually, Nouwen is one of a few authors that I recommend without reservation. Anything he writes is profound. Two others are Fredrich Buechner and Brennan Manning.

Comments (5)

  • Thanks this is encouraging and reminds me how he was wounded, killed, despised because of us…and through this we know that he knows our pains, etc as he has undergone all this.

    You are avessal of his word.

  • I’m slowly reading through the book Adam’s Return, and what I read last night was very timely (as is this article), because it talked about how we deal with our wounds. And I had been struggling all day thinking about a particular place I was wounded. What Rohr said that really spoke to my heart was “Jesus comes in through our wounds” you know through the cracks of the false man.

  • “When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience.”

    Great perspective! Great blog!

  • How can I put my woundedness in the service of others? When my wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, I have become a wounded healer.

    Personalizing this truth internalizes it and gives it eyes.

    Reminds me: “All for good.”

    Also helpful is knowing as a wounded healer my calling is to listen to a person in pain without having to speak about my own wounds.

    It is freeing, a relief even, to focus on the other rather than the self.

    Thank you for faithfully caring for the extended family and bride of Christ.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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