We have spoken of the breaking of our heart in the two senses of deep hurt and of opening up, and how one can sometimes lead to another. There is a fascinating expression from the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon as it is sometimes called. The words are: “You have wounded my heart.” It is also translated as you have captured or stolen or enchanted my heart. In the ancient language, heart was considered the source of thought, feeling, and decision. In that light, a basic question can be phrased as: Who or what has pierced to the core of who we are and has helped to shape who we are at our deepest level.
This influence can be both positive and negative. It can reinforce or hinder our sense of worth. It can both heal and wound us. Many, many years ago, when I was working at a residential treatment home for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls, I used to stay for supper and chat with different groups of them. On one occasion, a girl of 13 uttered a profound statement that has remained with me. She said that all of the children there had been wounded by their past, and that they had to learn to live with their wounds. It seems to me that in some ways, small or large, we have all been wounded by our life experiences. The challenge is to recognize these hurts and to move toward healing and reaffirming a sense of sacred worth.
I have always been fascinated by the roots of words. The word heal in English is also essentially the same as the words, whole, health, hale, hail, and hello. The word therapy comes from the Greek and means to heal, The word sane comes from the Latin and means health. In this sense, to heal means to move toward health and wholeness of the whole person. This seems to be a gradual process, at once moving from our deepest self outward, it is also assisted by caring others who see the hidden wholeness beneath any areas of brokenness that is also part of who we are.
Years ago, a colleague and I published an article on chronic care. We raised and answered positively the question: Can one be a whole person in a broken body? This was more than an academic question since I grew up with a younger brother who was born with a serious heart condition, yet had a marvellous personality, and died at the age of 26. I also still have scars on the side of my head–the only part still covered by hair :)–from being hit by a truck at age six. I think that the core or heart of us, our inmost self, is untouched by any wounds as well as the shadow part of ourselves. Through reflection, reading, exercise, friendship and much else, we can become more in touch with this inner self and have a sense of its sacred worth. Others can also help foster the movement toward healing and wholeness within us.
In an article on compassion, Henri Nouwen writes that sometimes people may not be cured of illness or injury in the narrow sense, but they may be changed simply by having experienced compassion, care, and concern in a very deep and meaningful way. He says that the people in our life who are the most meaningful are not the ones who offered all sorts of advice, suggestions, or recommendations. The real friend is not the person with the solution, but the one who sticks it out with you even though there is no solution. He adds that to be compassionate is to believe that it is worthwhile to be with a person even when we cannot do anything specific or see results.
This process of growth and healing may perhaps best be seen in terms of presence, presence to ourselves and to one another. We might also speak of coming home to ourselves and to one another.
This thought is reflected in the famous lines of T. S. Eliot. “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
May you discover within yourself your own hidden wholeness, and receive and give help on the path to healing, wholeness, and home, to those whose lives intersect with your own.
Norman King, June 20, 2021.