Sunday, June 10, 2007

Henri Nouwen: The Wounded Healer

The Dutch teacher Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) is synonymous with the phrase ‘the wounded healer’, which is an apt expression for many to describe the way they attempt to go about their work or ministry.

Henri’s book entitled ‘The Wounded Healer’, draws it’s inspiration from this story, told in Henri's own words:

A well known story among the Hebrew people concerns a Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah and said to him:

“Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” said the Rabbi.
“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.
“But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet said, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”

Henri Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”

Source: Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Image, Doubleday, 1979)

Image: Henri Nouwen.