The Wounded Healer

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1

The psychologist Susan Silk published an article about the psychology of comfort called “Ring Theory,” or, for short: Comfort In, Dump Out. It’s personal for her: after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in the hospital, she got tired of having to comfort people who were supposed to be comforting her.

Ring Theory puts the wounded person at the center of a circle, and everybody else in concentric rings around the wounded. Their distance from the center corresponds to the closeness of their relationship: spouses are closest in, followed by family, close friends, work colleagues, and, finally, Facebook friends.

The rule of Ring Theory is that you have to comfort anyone in a circle smaller than yours, and get your own needs met by someone in a circle larger than yours.

The priest Henri Nouwen didn’t coin the phrase Wounded Healer—Carl Jung did that—but Henri popularized it. He said that we Jesus-people are called to put our wounds, once they have begun healing, into the service of the newly wounded, and he also told this story:

A Rabbi came to the prophet Elijah and asked, “Tell me, when will the Messiah come?” The reply, “Go ask him yourself,” surprised the Rabbi. “Where is he?” he asked. “He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” Elijah said. “But how will I know which one he is?” the Rabbi inquired.

“He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all of their wounds all at one time and then bind them up again; but he unbinds his wounds one at a time and then binds that wound up again. He says to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed and I must always be ready.'”

If we are the hands and feet and wounds of Christ in the world, what does it mean to be “always ready”?

It has something to do with sitting among others who are wounded. 
It has something to do with only unbinding one wound at a time. 
It has something to do with acknowledging that we are not only here for ourselves, but might be needed, and called by God to respond to that need, at any moment.

Dear Lord, bind up my old wounds, and help me to get a grip, that I may comfort in, and dump out, as the day requires, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


PS: Due to circumstances beyond my control and for the good of the church, I will be suspending my blog. Thank you for reading the blogs and devotions over the years. It has meant a lot to me to be able to share with you in this manner. God speed to all of you.

7 Responses

  1. I will miss your thoughts and assurances. I have truly enjoyed following you for these years.

  2. Thank you Steve; I have enjoyed your blog the devotions have been very uplifting to me I am sorry you need to stop. I appreciate you very much for you have meant a lot to Bobby and me over the last 4years. May God continue to Bless you and Shirley; Bobby and Peggy

    >________________________________ > From: smartin1947 >To: >Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2013 7:01 PM >Subject: [New post] The Wounded Healer > > > >smartin1947 posted: ” “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1 The psychologist Susan Silk published an article about the psychology of comfort called “Ring Theory,” or, for short: Comfort In, Dump Out. It’s personal for her: after she was diagnosed with” >

  3. (Not in your control), this breaks the chain that held us together. I have enjoyed reading your Blog and I felt that we could reach out and touch each other, all good things must come to and end.
    Stay well and take care of Shirley

  4. I will miss your beautiful insights on life that you shared through this blog. Betty Bell

  5. I will miss your writings.

  6. Steve, you have lifted my heart and spirit many a day… dear friend, Betty Bell, shared your devotions with me way before you retired. Now that you are retired it was good for my spirit to continue receiving your devotions. As you end this blog may you know that God has used you mightily and I praise the Lord for you. May you have renewed health, peace in your heart and be blessed beyond measure. Thank you for your ministry in the Lord. In His name, Pam

  7. Steve and Shirley–why, why, why?? I can’t stand it. I need your comfort and joy.

    Kim has a big stress right now and would like to talk to someone and I said–if Steve were still with us, he would be great to talk to. Miss you so, but it in no way detracts from my support of Robin. I also rejoice that you can be more relaxed and I hope happy. Stay in touch, somehow, jd

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