How can wounds become a source of healing?

Henri Nouwen address this at the end of his book The Wounded Healer and makes a case for hospitality as a healing power.

My knee jerk reaction to the word “hospitality” is CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). I always think my house is too small, too cluttered, has too many children in it making too much noise in order to extend proper hospitality.

Fortunately Nouwen views hospitality as more than just cleaning up your house and having people over. Hospitality requires three things:

1. The ability to pay attention without intention. That is, focusing and listening to someone without being distracted by your own worries and concerns or imposing on the other person your “intrusive curiosity.”

2.Withdrawing into yourself even while you’re with another person:

Paradoxically, by withdrawing into ourselves, not out of self-pity but out of humility, we create the space for another to be himself and to come to us on his own terms.

3. Taking away the false illusion that wholeness can be given by one to another.

Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their loneliness away.

But when they enter a house with real hospitality, they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds.

One last Nouwen quote:

A shared pain is no longer paralyzing but mobilizing, when understood as a way to liberation. When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

It’s kind of funny that what we traditionally think of as hospitality is often the very opposite these three things.

But I suppose that still won’t keep me from suffering from CHAOS from time to time.


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