Sunday, November 23, 2008

Healing advice

Joan Chittister, OSB, is the founder and executive director of Benetvision. She is the author of 35 books [so far], and is internationally known for her lectures on spirituality, not just that based in the monastic way, but also the spirituality that can be found in our daily lives. This piece comes from her weekly posting Ideas in Passing here, which I get by email each week.

It seemed particularly appropriate for everyone in our diocese right now.

Photo from


Who has not known what it is to be hurt by either hate or neglect? Who has not known what it is to be targeted for scorn or rejection or jealousy or misinterpretation?

What is the process, then, of coming to wholeness again, once the bonds of human community have been broken? What repairs the breaking of a golden cord?

Healing depends on our wanting to be well. I may not forget the blows I have suffered in life but I must choose not to live under their power forever. Most of all, I must choose not to imprison myself in my own pain. Whatever has mutilated us—the betrayal, the dishonesty, the mockery, the broken promises—there is more to life than that. The first step of healing, then, is to find new joy for myself to tide me through the terror of the abandonment. It is time to get a new life instead of mourning the old one.

The second step in healing is to find new ideas in which to live. Whatever we needed before the breakpoint came—security, love, connectedness, certainty, identity—we must now find someplace else. We must put our hope in risk and find it challenging, in self and find it strong, in newness and find it enough.

The third step to healing is to trust ourselves to someone else just when we think we cannot trust anyone or anything at all. Just when we are not sure who the enemy really is, we must risk confidence in someone again. Healing comes when we step across the line in our minds and hope that this time, in this person, we will find the acceptance the enlightenment needed to join the human community one more time.

Healing comes when I have been able to desensitize myself to the indignity of hurt by telling it to death until I have bored even myself with the story. For this I need the healers, who by taking me into the arms of the heart to let me cry, transcend their own small lives and learn about the human condition what they themselves would never have come to, perhaps, without me. We need the listeners who understand. It is not the wounding that kills, after all; it is lack of understanding that paralyzes the soul. It is, after all, understanding which every soul on earth is seeking.

The final step in healing is a matter of time itself. To honor the fact that there is "A time for healing" means surely that we come to peace with the notion that healing does not come before its time, that healing takes time, that time itself is a healer who comes slowly bringing new life and new wisdom in its wake. It is the spiritual power of the healing process in each of us that goes unnoted and so unappreciated. We fly the hurts—ignore them and dismiss them and detest them—and so miss the values of the healing time itself.

"Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground," Wilde teaches. It is in the healing process that we come to a new appreciation of life. What the human being survives is the mark of the mettle of humanity. What we manage to transcend is what we have triumphed over. What we have wrestled with and won is what measures in us the quality of our lives.
– edited excerpt from There Is A Season (Orbis)

You can read all of the Ideas in Passing postings at the web site.

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