I subscribe to the Henri Nouwen Society daily mediations, which are sent to my email inbox. This week the topic is “Our Wounds”. Nouwen begins by dealing with the misconception that time heals all wounds. If we think that over time we will forget the wounds we have experienced, especially those at the hands of others, we are only kidding ourselves. We can try to ignore what has happened to us, but we are fooling ourselves if we think this solves the problem; we need to do something about it. Just like with a physical wound, ignoring the pain will only lead to an infection. However, Nouwen defines the healing of time as: “Not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Before we can try to help others with their pain we need to address our own. We only fool ourselves if we think that any of us can escape without being wounded. Nouwen claims, “Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.” The problem is that we are too full of pride to openly discuss our hurts, so we think that burying them is the answer. Unfortunately, when we do this, we rob others of the help we can offer them. Nouwen says, “As long as our wounds are open and bleeding, we scare others away. But after someone has carefully tended to our wounds, they no longer frighten us or others.”
As I read Henri Nouwen’s meditations these past few days, I thought of the many wounded lives that Village of Hope touches. The children we care for come from very difficult situations. The loss of parents and loved ones can leave some very deep wounds. Some if not many have been physically or emotionally abused. All have been forced to suppress the hurts. However, wounds heal much quicker if we deal with them closest to the time of the injury. The best time to heal a child’s emotional wounds is when they are still a child. So why is this so difficult to achieve? I think it’s because so many adults have wounds of their own that they have never dealt with. We all need to address our inner pain. Nouwen says, “When we experience the healing presence of another person, we can discover our own gifts of healing.” We must deal with our wounds – we owe it to the many children we care for so that we can then help them with their healing process.
The thought of helping someone who has suffered such deep wounds can be quite daunting; however, we should not fear it. Instead, we should simply listen. Nouwen says, “A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds.” When it comes to the pain of others it should never be about us.
Hurting children, I believe, need someone who is willing to listen to their pain. To have someone hug them and value them regardless of what others have done to them. Let’s try to heal the pain before it festers into something that is carried for an entire life time, we owe it to each other.
Until next time,
Executive Director – Villages of Hope-Africa