What happens when we become a wounded healer? I ask because a life in public service is in the business of helping people learn respect, equity, and find personal hope and healing — as much as it is to learn grammar, vocabulary, literary analysis, or any other aim of any of my English classes.
1 day in 10 can be as defeating as it is enthralling, and today was that 1/10 day. Teaching teenagers is truly not for the faint of heart, mind, or spirit.
So how do we respond when a person is wrongfully angry, and spills vitriol aimed at us, despite our best efforts to show kindness, boundaries, and grace?
Henri Nouwen wrote — “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?’”
It will take me a moment to accept this truth. And yet — this is the real, deep task I often face as a public school teacher in an affluent high school. If what I face can help others or increase my work, then maybe there is a lesson.
The pain I faced today — unwarranted — stems from another person’s unresolved anger, frustration, or other range of emotions. Likely, their unobserved pain.
My own woundedness has become something I pay attention to and give some attention, because sometimes I’m triggered by an event buried in my past, an arrow so digested I’ve forgotten it.
Today I saw clearly — I was free from that previous pain — and yet this moment was still hurtful and searing. It’s not a source of shame, but a reminder of how far I’ve come emotionally over the last 20 years.
I believe navigating suffering can either lead us to a superficial life or lead us closer toward a community of love, depending on which direction we turn.
“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind?
In short: who can take away suffering without entering it?” (Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)