Top positive review
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thoughtful writing on a difficult topic
on 6 June 2009
I was introduced to Henri Nouwen's writing with "Finding My Way Home" which was compiled after his death from writing and talks he had given. His books are short with great insight and a gentleness of writing. I was awestruck by "Finding My Way Home" which I suppose set a high bar for "The Wounded Healer" to meet.
So if I am honest I was disappointed by the first half of the book possibly because it was written around the year of my birth so references to recent studies (from 1969) on the character of young people as fatherless, convulsive and inward were a little hard to relate to. Although some of these characteristics probably continue - particularly fatherlessness I struggled to connect to Nouwen's thoughts.
However the third and fourth chapters utterly grabbed me and I will need to reread them to absorb more of the treasures that they hold. The overall theme is recognising we can only reach out to wounded people if we too recognise our own woundedness. He is speaking of spiritual and emotional healing rather than of physical healing. His take on loneliness caused a significant shift in my thinking.
"We live in a society in which loneliness has become one of the most painful human wounds.
But the more I think about loneliness, the more I think that the wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon - a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding.
Therefore I would like to voice loudly and clearly what might seem unpopular and maybe even disturbing: The Christian life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift...perhaps the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond the boundaries of our existence."
As with Nouwen's other writing there is always a gentle direction towards Christ - the ultimate wounded healer "it is by his wounds that we are healed" and a tone of great love for his fellow man.
Each chapter is based around a story illustrating the overall theme of the chapter.
Overall I would say the book is best summed up by Nouwen's own words:
"In short:'Who can take away suffering without entering it?'. The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there."
Beautiful and I highly recommend the second half. Fortunately it's a short enough book that if you are in my age bracket or younger and struggle to relate to the 60's youth, it is still worth getting through the first half.