“We all can influence the life source. The tools and strategies of healing are so innate, so much a part of a common human birthright, that we believers in technology pay very little attention to them. But they have lost none of their power.
“People have been healing each other since the beginning. Long before there were surgeons, psychologists, oncologists, and internists, we were there for each other. The healing of our present woundedness may lie in recognizing and reclaiming the capacity we all have to heal each other, the enormous power in the simplest of human relationships; the strength of a touch, the blessing of forgiveness, the grace of someone else taking you just as you are and finding in you an unsuspected goodness.
“Everyone alive has suffered. It is the wisdom gained from our wounds and from our own experiences of suffering that makes us able to heal. Becoming expert has turned out to be less important than remembering and trusting the wholeness in myself and everyone else. Expertise cures, but wounded people can best be healed by other wounded people. Only other wounded people can understand what is needed, for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise.”
From “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen
I’ve been hearing the phrase the wounded healer a lot recently. It perhaps sounds a little strange and maybe it is. There are those who say that you must be healed yourself before you can hope to help others, otherwise you will pour out your pain onto those you are trying to help. I understand this perspective and I see some truth in it and yet somehow the fear, the lack of faith, in it seems to miss the point. If you wait until you are whole, until you are perfect before being of use to others you may be waiting a long time, until eternity.
My understanding of my self, my own suffering and healing and my observations and experiences with others has shown me that we are all wounded to some degree, we all have cracks within us. Nobody is perfect and who would want to be. In fact I have discovered that it is our very wounds and imperfections that put us into a better position to help others come to terms with who they are. Our own woundedness helps to breed empathy and understanding. Who amongst us is not wounded in some way? Who amongst us does not bear the scars of life? And because we are wounded does this mean we cannot help others? I believe that the opposite is true. It is our very wounds and the scars formed from them that makes us better able to help others heal from their own wounds.
The ancient Greeks understood the power of the “Wounded Healer”. Their mythology tells the story of Chiron, a wise and benevolent centaur and a master of healing.
The question this brings to my mind is how do we create environments where the wounded healer can operate?
In his book “The Wounded Healer”, Henri Nouwen envisioned the creation of religious communities that could become a safe haven where people could be open and honest about their own woundedness, their suffering and loneliness; a safe haven where through recognising ones pain, healing and recovery could begin. Nouwen wrote that people today are “Semitic nomads…(who) live in a desert with many lonely travellers who are looking for a moment of peace, for a fresh drink and for a sign of encouragement so that they can continue their mysterious search for freedom.” I can really relate to this. One of the reason I became a part of a Unitarian community was for this very reason. Spirituality on an individual level is fine, but it only really comes alive in community as we search for healing and understanding together. Everyone is wounded in one way or another and everyone is looking for healing and understanding at one level or another, even if they are not entirely sure what from. We are all looking for love, understanding, acceptance and meaning. We are the religious animal, to deny this is to deny an important aspect of our shared humanity. None of us though are the experts, I've not yet found anyone with all the answers and I for one am grateful that the Unitarian tradition recognises this. This is why people need to come together in community, to ask questions, seek answers and find ways to heal ourselves and one another. By coming together in our shared suffering we can breed empathy and live more compassionately.
This brings to mind a quote I read on my Facebook feed this week by the Buddhist Pema Chodron;
“The Places that Scare You”
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
Now I know that this is an extremely macho setting but I think there is something in it for everyone. Our scars our wounds are symbols of the lives we have lived and we ought not to be afraid to show them. Not in some form of vainglory but as symbol of our shared humanity. To show we have lived and have healed from our wounds, although not without one or two scars.
Sadly there is a growing tendency in our age to cover up our imperfections our blemishes. Some even go as far as having intricate tattoos on their skin to cover up past physical wounds. These though are only superficial and do not really cover up the lives we have lived. Neither do they offer much to others, as we remain locked in our own shame about our own only too human imperfections. As beautiful as the tattoos can be I see a greater beauty in what lies behind the scars.
We are all wounded and we all carry the scars of our wounds, no matter how hard we try to cover them up. These wounds aren't always physical either. they can be be emotional, spiritual and mental too.
The point I am trying to make is that our suffering can be transformed. If we allow it to be our suffering can become a powerful force for the development of compassion and empathy. We all suffer and by understanding this it ought to bring us closer to one another and lead us to a place of deeper understanding and healing.
Healing can come, so long as we do not hide from our suffering. The key I believe is to uncover the wounds and get down to what is deep within them. By doing so we may just uncover deeper resources that can bring healing to ourselves and others; by doing so we can tap into that greater reality that lies at the core of everything.
Experience has revealed to me the truth of Jung's discoveries. I believe that it is our task to unearth this true self and to let it out into our lives and to share it with our brothers and sisters in the communities we inhabit. When we do so we can begin to transform our woundedness and we can bring healing beyond our personal pain and suffering. Surely this is the whole point, to bring about connection and not to simply escape all pain and suffering. We all have the potential, the capacity to heal. It is our very woundedness that qualifies us for the task.
We are not perfect, but then what in life is. We all bear the scars of life, some inflicted by others and some by own hands. I have discovered that it is only by accepting and fully understanding this that we make ourselves better able to help others come to terms with who they are and live a life of service for the good of all.
I am yet to meet a perfect person anywhere in life, including the communities I serve or have been a part of. That said I have met some of the most beautiful people on God's earth during my time amongst the Unitarians. I like to call them the beautifully strange, or perhaps the strangely beautiful.
Henri Nouwen wrote “We do not know where we will be two, ten or twenty years from now. What we can know, however, is that human beings suffer and that a sharing of suffering can make us move forward.” By sharing our suffering we can begin to move forward and it is this that can begin to bring about the healing and wholeness that we are all searching for, we are hoping for. This can grow from within each of us as we commune together, work together and do the works of compassion that our wounded world needs. We can begin it today, it begins in our own hearts. We are all “The Wounded Healers.”
I will end this little piece with the following beautiful words by Pesah Gertler
"The Healing Time"
Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy