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The Christophers: Becoming A Wounded Healer

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.


The late Catholic priest Father Henri Nouwen wrote, “Nobody escapes b­eing wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’” This statement gets to the heart of a profound truth about Christ, who shows us how to turn woundedness into a healing power. Nouwen writes, “Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through His wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; His rejection brought a community of love.”

The world teaches us to hide our woundedness out of fear of being ridiculed or taken advantage of by others, but Christ shows us a different path. He shows us how woundedness can be utilized to bring about change and to help others who are suffering. Consider the difference we make in the lives of others when, rather than hiding our suffering, we share stories that reveal our own fragility. It makes people feel understood in their own suffering and able to open up about their problems. This is a dynamic that produces healing for everyone involved.

Our newest Christopher News Note “Becoming a Wounded Healer” details the story of psychologist Dr. Richard B. Patterson, who changed his life after reading Father Nouwen’s book “The Wounded Healer.” Dr. Patterson realized that he was an addict and needed to get clean, so he began to walk the hard road to sobriety, experiencing along the way the many layers of truth found within the wisdom expressed by Father Nouwen. In a piece for Franciscan Media, Dr. Patterson wrote, “What I’ve come to see is that wounded healers offer many things: knowledge, resources, and creative problem solving. But what they offer more than anything else is that most elusive, yet most important, spiritual and psychological experience: hope.”

Wounded healers offer hope by showing people how to persevere. They are living witnesses to the resilience of the human spirit, and they are living witnesses to our ability to walk in the footsteps of Christ by turning the tables on suffering. The way we join Christ in this miraculous process of turning the tables on suffering is to use it for the benefit of others by allowing our wounds to be seen and allowing others to take inspiration from our will to embrace the gift of life even amid tragedy.

The concept of the wounded healer dates back to an ancient Greek legend of a god who received a wound that would not heal yet also would not kill him due to his immortality, and so, overflowing with compassion, he roamed the earth healing others. And Plato also referenced wounded healers, declaring that those who have suffered make the best physicians.

As is so often the case with the wisdom of the ancients, we see humanity’s longing for the answers only Christ could provide, because it is in Christ that we see the most thorough transformation of defeat into victory, and we join in this same transformation when we lay our suffering bare for the healing of others.

We don’t need to be perfect to reach out to people in their hour of need. We simply need the humility to recognize our own imperfections and to have those imperfections laid bare as we extend a helping hand. In this way, we show how compassion transforms us even amid our suffering.


For a free copy of The Christophers’ BECOMING A WOUNDED HEALER, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

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