I was late to a research meeting in McNeal Hall on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Stressed, scattered, and trying to recall what it was I was supposed to have prepared for this meeting and how I might pass in front of everyone else as prepared when I was not, I entered McNeal Hall. Entering on the ground floor level of the Southside entrance, I went up the stairs two steps at a time, mumbling something to myself like a confused and agitated man who could thank caffeine for taking the edge off of the effects of perpetual insomnia. That’s when it came out.
“The purpose of my life is to be healed and to heal others.”
I said this single sentence out loud, with clarity, and confidence – a trifecta. It made more sense to me than anything I had ever uttered before in my life. It felt profound when I said it. A relief. I believed it without uncertainty. I had spoken truth.
So what did this mean? I was being formed, sometimes rather reluctantly, into a social science researcher in the premier Family Social Science Department in the world. How would being a researcher accomplish such a goal? I was already a licensed marriage and family therapist. Could I not accomplish this goal in life without the multiple agonies of getting a Ph.D? So why this moment of clarity in this place? At this time? With this perceived life trajectory?
And what were my wounds? How would these wounds inform my call to heal others? Who would the “others” be that I should help to heal?
There are many ways in which healing occurs, as many ways as there are to be wounded, I suppose – perhaps even more. There are so many kinds of wounds a person can experience. There are physical wounds, of course, ranging from bumps and bruises to losing limbs and traumatic brain injuries. There are psychological wounds as well. The DSM 5 catalogs a whole bunch of them. There are relational wounds, spiritual wounds, wounds of oppression, injustice, identity, sexuality, privilege, grief & loss, betrayal, dismissal, missed opportunity and regret. There are so many different kinds of wounds and we all experience some of them. There are no unwounded people.
Everyone is dealing with their wounds. I am dealing with mine. I deal with them first off by trying to be aware of what they are. An unattended to or unknown wound can become what is called, “normal,” and yet it is not healthy. I am also seeking to observe my own reflexive efforts to attend to my wounds. How am I coping with my wounds when I don’t even realize that is what I am doing? (why do I drink so much caffeine?)
I want to move from reflexive to intentional in the way I deal with my wounds. I want to move from reactive to responsive. From fear-filled to pr0active (courageous). From wounded to healed.
It is from my wounds that I more likely to spread my pain to others. Untreated wounds become infectious. The wounds I carry with me which go unknown are the wounds that have the highest likelihood of hurting someone else.
The reason I must heal myself and all the healing processes to influence me is not only that I might live with the benefits of healing. If that were the case, however, it would be enough. But there is a larger reason to enter into healing. The more healed I am the less my wounds will negatively affect others. I bless the public world by healing my private world.
Personal healing is an act of social justice because it is not possible to quarantine one’s own wounding. The person who believe they’ve successfully isolated their woundings is living a life of naïve unawareness of the extent and influence of their wounding. They spread their wounds without knowing.
Beyond healing for one’s own sake and for the sake of others, I must go about helping others to heal as well. I must do this in whatever context I find myself in.
Each would I experience myself is instructive of the wounds many others have experienced. Each of my wounds wounds tells a story as do the wounds of everyone. Perhaps our stories merge a little and we each feel less alone.