By Hannah Graham
It is common jargon in Christian circles to talk about wounds, particularly the emotional and spiritual pains we carry from our past. These wounds can stem from grudges in broken friendships, betrayal by someone trusted, or unhealthy romantic relationships. Essentially, the concept of wounds makes it easier to identify the long-term effects of broken relationships or situations.
Although sometimes trite, this concept is important to understand because the internal wounds we carry from difficult situations or others’ actions can cause us to develop insecurities, walls, and defenses that negatively impact our current relationships and perpetuate unhealthy behavior. A friend summarized this reality for me when she said “If you don’t tend to your wounds you’ll bleed all over people.” While we cannot feel guilty for having this pain, nor can we force ourselves to rush into healing from these things, there does come a point in our lives where we must look at ourselves and decide if the pains we carry from broken relationships will continue to impact the relationships we have now.
It is of extreme importance to note here that I am not talking about serious psychological trauma. Events such as those can take years of healing, prayer, professional help, and support. However, many of us struggle with basic insecurities like trust issues, lack of self-confidence, fear of change, etc., that prevent us from true vulnerability and freedom in our relationships. While it is crucial to forgive and reconcile with those who have injured us in these ways, it is also important to recognize any wounds we have received and how they may have caused us to behave towards ourselves or others. In other words, it is as vital to seek healing for ourselves as it is to forgive those who hurt us.
Seeking healing does not mean hiding our wounds from others, though, rather it encourages true self-knowledge and vulnerability with not just ourselves but those we love. In this way, we prevent ourselves from passing on the hurts we have received to others. Admittedly, this can be a difficult process since many of us will deal with certain tendencies and insecurities for the majority of our lives. Jean Vanier once said, “The one that is healed and the one who is healing are constantly changing places.” This is the result of living in a fallen world, where we are repeatedly hurt and restored. In seeking healing for ourselves, though, we can begin to lead others to heal too.
True healing such as this can only be attained when we look to the one who was wounded for our transgressions first. Encouraging others to reflect on the wounds of Christ in a homily, Pope Francis said:
We are not asked to ignore or hide our wounds. A church with wounds can understand the wounds of today's world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them. A wounded church does not make herself the center of things, does not believe that she is perfect, but puts at the center the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ.
Accepting our brokenness and the brokenness of others allows us to escape self pity and turn to Christ. As Pope Francis points out, it is crucial not to make our wounds the center of our lives for this ignores the most pivotal reality that we have already been redeemed and can be healed if we open ourselves up to God’s grace. Additionally, by living our lives in a place of healing we can inspire others to open themselves up to the freedom Christ’s love gives. Rather than living out of insecurity, we can begin to live out of the empowering knowledge that we are fulfilled by an unconditional and restorative love that isn’t dependent upon our history or the imperfect affections of people.
Once we experience this freedom it can be easy to see the brokenness of others and the ways in which they need to encounter God in their lives. What is vital for us to remember is that we cannot heal them, we can only love them. In this way, we avoid pride and encourage them to find Christ, the one who healed us. In her spiritual classic, the Reed of God, Caryll Houselander says:
In the world in which we live today, the great understanding given by the spirit of Wisdom must involve us in a lot of suffering. We shall be obliged to see the wound that sin has inflicted on the people of the world. We shall have X-ray minds; we shall see through the bandages people have laid over the wounds that sin has dealt them; we shall see Christ in others, and that vision will impose an obligation on us for as long as we live, the obligation of love…(37).
Knowing our own need for God heightens our senses to the universal need everyone has for him. When we see the wounds of others it should compel us to love them that they may encounter the Lord and find freedom from their sins and the wounds on their hearts. Freedom from brokenness makes us whole, allowing us to live holy lives that preach redemption instead of anger or insecurity. Above all, these realizations should lead us into profound humility and gratitude knowing that without him we are broken but through him we are healed.