Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Walking Wounded

I love those moments in life when you have simultaneously opposing reactions to the very same thing. Reading the quip from above was one of those moments for me. The thoughtful, contemplative side of myself slowly nodded in agreement as I thought about the things in my life that, while painful, have aided in my ability to be a genuine and empathetic presence to another in need of care. The admittedly deeper and more raw side of myself simultaneously laughed with great cynicism and screamed with familiar fear, knowing that the most detestable things that I have done in ministry (and in life) have come out of my deepest hurts. 

Having been on both sides of this reality only deepens my belief in its truth. I have experienced firsthand the consequences of a pastor who ministered out of his own unhealth; who used those in his care to fill and serve his own woundedness, to the detriment of his congregants. The damage done was deep, widespread and has this tendency to linger like some sort of ghostly spirit that you can't touch but can always feel.

Adversely, having served in ministry for just shy of a decade now, and with much yet to learn, I have already experienced moments of retrospectively staring at myself in utter disbelief at my ability to use my woundedness to harm others. I didn't mean to. I didn't plan for it. It just sort of...happened. Perhaps it was a person or situation that, without my even realizing it, triggered an old wound within me and before I knew what happened, I responded out of a raw, unhealed place, inevitably creating new wounds for someone else. From bullying kids on the bus in middle school, to responding in a hostile way during a meeting at church, to knowingly saying the most unhelpful, dishonoring thing to a friend or family member--my track record is not what I'd love for it to be. 

In as simple a way as can possibly be said:

Being a wounded wounder is to take the easy way out. 
Being a wounded healer is a great deal of work.

For as good a work ethic as many of us were raised with, this kind of work is still not elevated to its deserved importance, nor is it the kind of work that is easy, feels good, or even has instant reward (all things we strive for in our culture). But the payoff, however long in coming, holds a significance that is unparalleled. That work doesn't mean that the pain is gone, that it's not still somewhat tender if prodded. I believe that being a wounded healer simply means that enough healing has happened that raw nerve isn't exposed--that if touched, you don't have knee-jerk responses to the sharp pain, flailing about to the detriment of those around you. 

Your most effective care of other people DOES come out of your deepest hurts.
Your most destructive responses towards other people ALSO come out of your deepest hurts. 

We are all wounded.
One of these things will happen. 
May the wounded healers outnumber the rest.
And let it begin with me.