April 25, 2018

April blogging #A-Z 2018 - W

This post is written for the April blogging #A-Z 2018. 
I have chosen the theme Books and Authors for this year.
The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic Priest, Professor, writer and a theologian. He was eager to learn more about himself and the people he counseled. He studied psychology to explore the human side of faith, which he felt was neglected. He published 40 books and authored hundreds of articles. The Wounded Healer is a small book with 87 pages and has 4 broad chapters, the author treats each chapter as door to enter and respond to how do we minister in a contemporary society. Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal. He wrote,“by giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.

Even though this book is popular among the religious priests and sisters, there is learning for all those people who are in helping positions like counselors, service providers, teachers and all those who desire to serve. This book  has powerful illustration of the fact that we can help each other not from our supremacy but especially from our own weakness.

Acknowledging our weakness helps us to be in contact with ourselves and thereby helps us to be compassionate to another human being who feels weak in some way. In this way it helps us to have a heart to heart empathic contact that is highly satisfying. Our wounded ness can help us acknowledge our need for God and present ourselves humbly to others.

I am happy to have read this book and was part of a small group that reflected on Wounded Healer concept. I felt like sharing two very reflective tales- one from ancient India another incident of a fugitive both of which evokes a lot of questions and thoughts for discussions and reflections.  I felt like sharing these two… to get an insight about this book.

Old tale of ancient India

Four royal sons were questioning what specialty they should master. They said to one another” let us search the earth and learn a special science, so they decided and agreed they would meet again and each of them set off in a direction, and they meet again to know what each of them have learnt. One son says he has mastered a science, which makes it possible to create flesh for the bone; another says he has learnt to grow skin and hair if there is a flesh on that goes with it; the third says he is able to create its limbs if there is flesh, skin and hair and the fourth concluded that he learnt how to give life to the creature if its form is complete with limbs.

Thereupon the four brothers went into the jungle to find a piece of bone so that they could demonstrate their specialties. Each one found something to create; the bone they found was a lion’s they did not know that, they picked up the bone. The second and third, added what they have found and the fourth gave the lion life.

Shaking its heavy mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed all four brothers and vanished into the jungle. This tale is the predicament of the nuclear man characterized by historical dislocation, fragmented ideology and the search for immortality.

There is another incident in this book about a fugitive trying to hide himself…
A young fugitive was trying to hide himself in a small village; the people were kind and gave him place to stay. But the soliders came looking for him and the whole village gets frightened as the soldiers threaten that they will burn the village if they don’t reveal the truth about the fugitive. The villagers approach a Minister, a religious man who goes inside and says his prayers and opens the bible to get some help in order to make a decision whether to handover the young fugitive or save the village.

He gets the verse in the bible that says” It is better for one man to die than the whole people be lost” so he calls the soldiers and shows where the fugitive is hiding, the soldiers take him to kill him. The whole village celebrates as the Minister saved all the people of village. But the Minister is sad. That night Minister has a dream and the angel asks him, what have you done?  He says I have handed over the fugitive to the enemy. Then the angel said, don’t you know that you have handed over the Messiah?  He says, how could I know? Then the angel replies, if instead of reading your bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known. It’s a powerful example how we fail to recognize the Messiah in today’s context.

In the other two chapters of the book Henri Nouwen brings together creative case studies of ministry with stories from diverse cultures and religious traditions in evolving a new model for service, which is balanced with the realization of Woundedness in humans. The wounded healer is a thoughtful and insightful guide that will be welcomed by anyone engaged in the service of others.

The last chapter the author talks about an old legend in the Talmud which suggest that the Messiaiah  is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds one at a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed. In the service of reaching out to weak; we must bind our own wounds carefully in anticipation of the moment when we will be needed. We are called to be wounded healers, the one’s  who must look after our own wounds  and at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others.

It is said that this word wounded healer is taken from Carl Jung’s idea who believed that wounds of counselors and soul physicians help them to discern and care for the wounds of the people who seek their help. But he also cautioned that this is hazard for the wounded healers because the distress that is brought to them may re open their old wounds, or trigger repressed inner conflicts. If counselors and pastors don’t continue their own journey of self awareness and receiving soul care from God and trusted counselors they may fall into compassion fatigue and depression, and lose their capacity to help others.

I tried my best to keep the post shorter; there is so much more to reflect, I exceeded the word limit and feel a little more reflections is needed to do justice to the book. Despite my efforts to shorten and cut down words –  I still made it  long post.

Thank you for reading this long post and I appreciate you patience J Have you heard about this book? I love to hear your thoughts.

May you be filled with happiness & peace.   


  1. This is a very powerful post Genevive thank you. And the stories of the 4 men and the fugitive touched me deeply. I also believe this quote: "Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal. He wrote,“by giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others''. In our wound is our strength, is we are prepared to uncover it - too often we don't acknowledge it ..

  2. Thank you susan for your lovely thoughts and yes I agree many a times we do not want to address our own wounds and in the process we are unable to function as whole person. I believe that only when we address our own wounds can we be in a position to help. I like the idea of Carl jung who used the term wounded healer and how important it is not lose our capacity in our journey to respond to the one's who are wounded.


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