‘Open wounds stink and do not heal’

From Henri Nouwen’s classic The Wounded Healer:

[I]t would be very easy to misuse the concept of the wounded healer by defending a form of spiritual exhibitionism. A minister who talks in the pulpit about his own personal problems is of no help  to his congregation, for no suffering human being is helped by someone who tells him that he has the same problems. Remarks such as, “Don’t worry because I suffer from the same depression, confusion and anxiety as you do,” help no one. This spiritual exhibitionism adds little faith to little faith and creates narrow-mindedness instead of new perspectives. Open wounds stink and do not heal.

Whenever I revisit this book, this quote always grabs me by the shirt collar. It reminds me that I often misread Nouwen. If you just handed me that quote and asked me what I thought Henri Nouwen thought about it, I would likely assume he would be bothered by it because I hear in him a voice that affirms solidarity among the wounded.

This quote reminds me that I pigeon-hole Nouwen and need to be more careful in how I read and hear him.

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