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The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society Ministry & Church Leadership Ministry

18th June 2012 Christian Books 35 Comments

The Wounded Healer is a hope-filled and profoundly simple book that speaks directly to those men and women who want to be of service in their church or community, but have found the traditional ways often threatening and ineffective. In this book, Henri Nouwen combines creative case studies of ministry with stories from diverse cultures and religious traditions in preparing a new model for ministry. Weaving keen cultural analysis with his psychological and religious insights, Nouwen has come up with a balanced and creative theology of service that begins with the realization of fundamental woundedness in human nature. Emphasizing that which is in humanity common to both minister and believer, this woundedness can serve as a source of strength and healing when counseling others. Nouwen proceeds to develop his approach to ministry with an analysis of sufferings — a suffering world, a suffering generation, a suffering person, and a suffering minister. It is his contention that ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts and make that recognition the starting point of their service. For Nouwen, ministers must be willing to go beyond their professional role and leave themselves open as fellow human beings with the same wounds and suffering — in the image of Christ. In other words, we heal from our own wounds. Filled with examples from everyday experience, The Wounded Healer is a thoughtful and insightful guide that will be welcomed by anyone engaged in the service of others.

"I wish I could send this book to every seminary, rectory and parsonage in the country."

– The Record

The Wounded Healer is Nouwen at his best …. the ideas it implants linger long after the book is read, and re-read. — Best Sellers

"One of the world’s greatest spiritual writers." –Christianity Today

The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

“A beautiful and sensitive book that reaches out to the believer.” — Church and Synagogue Library Association

“Anyone who is searching for the Spirit of God in the world today will benefit from reading it.” — Horizons

“For those unfamiliar with his work, this volume is a wonderful place to begin. Another significant achievement.” — Circuit Rider

“Gentle and searching. This Crossroad book is a spiritual primer for anyone seeking God.” — The Other Side –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Initially written for a Jewish friend, Life of the Beloved has become Henri Nouwens greatest legacy to Christians around the world. This sincere testimony of the power and invitation of Christ is indeed a great guide to a truly uplifting spiritual life in todays world.
Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

  • 35 responses to "The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society Ministry & Church Leadership Ministry"

  • Yohahn
    4:26 on June 18th, 2012
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    As a young person seeking meaning in a difficult world, I have found Nouwen’s work (every book I’ve read of his, actually) to clearly confront the ills of society, incorporating them into authentic Christian discipleship.
    Every priest, minister, layperson or questioning individual should pick up this brief – yet poignant – account of what it is to relate to others in the modern world. Nouwen consistently cultivates the meaning of authentic relationships one must have between him/herself, God, and those met in life.
    This is a must-read.

  • Bob Potter
    6:30 on June 18th, 2012
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    This is one of the most exceptional books I’ve ever read. Nouwen managed to describe the indescribable, God’s love for us. The book is short and easy to read, but profound. A reader will need to take time to live with its truths and will probably want to re-read sections. Give yourself a gift of this book–it is a perfect Lenten read.

  • Rimas
    8:05 on June 18th, 2012
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    Reflective, inspiring, rich, deep, universal – I loved it!
    Had to read this for a graduate class in clinical counseling – liked it so much I want to keep it and re-read from time to time. Really made me think.

  • jorge
    8:40 on June 18th, 2012
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    I found myself not agreeing with all of Henri’s cultural analysis, but I don’t have to. His work is still inspiring while at the same time not entertaining any moral high ground arrogance. Nouwen is down to earth and spiritually minded at the same time, he cares about people and you can’t go wrong with that. Open and honesty, loving and kind, the book will encourage you to treat people the way they want to be treated—as human beings. Buy it, read it, and live it.

  • morlan
    10:13 on June 18th, 2012
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    Nouwen, in this classic work, explains how in one’s weakness, one can still participate in the healing of others. A major theme of most of his books, Nouwen stresses that only in one’s brokenness before God and humankind can people really transform community. Admittedly, the philosophy of the wounded healer offered at the beginning and end of the book gets a little thick, but both portions offer excellent insights that make it a great read. The great benefit of the book is the clear examples offered in the middle of the text. Examples of people dealing with terminal patients and the like really clarifie the condition that Nouwen addresses. A must-read for people in the helping professions and anyone else looking to impact people!

  • PatchWatcher
    13:57 on June 18th, 2012
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    `Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World’ is one of Fr. Henri Nouwen’s final works–an attempt to reach out to the many people of our society who desire to believe in something greater than themselves, but are buried in the day-in-and-day-out activity of “getting by” in our world. The reflections are addressed to a friend of his who did not have much faith, if any, and who asked Fr. Nouwen if he would write a book on spirituality for “he and his friends.” In such, much of the book is written as if the author is speaking directly to this friend.

    I must first say that I have always been a tad bit hesitant in reading works written by Fr. Nouwen. Though I have found many of his reflections to be beautiful, his Catholic Christian theology at times has seemed a little fuzzy to me. Rest assured to those who share these concerns, it is not a problem in this book. The three main divisions of the brief book are “Being the Beloved”, “Becoming the Beloved”, and “Living as the Beloved”. The middle section further is broken down into four actions that take place in Becoming the Beloved: we are Taken, Blessed, Broken, and Given.

    I found the book to be thought-provoking and quite profound at parts. Yet I found myself questioning throughout (knowing the person/type of audience it is to be addressed to), “Would a secular person embrace this? Would they `get it’?” I think many of us desire to find those resources which we could just hand to a secular friend and send them on, knowing it would reach them… though I am not convinced this book achieves what the author had intended or hoped. It is very difficult for one steeped in the richness of the Christian Faith to effectively and authentically connect with the abyss of self that so many lost souls experience today. I believe on a direct and personal level, Fr. Nouwen certainly made major strides in drawing this young man into “The Great Conversation”, however, I am not sure that translated in a more generic way on paper in this book.

    That being said, I WOULD recommend `Life of the Beloved’ for the Christian who has already chosen Christ and may be at the beginning of their Faith walk–especially those who have recognized the futility of the “ladder of success” but don’t know exactly how to integrate their newfound Faith with their many responsibilities and perhaps discouraging personal reality. I would further say this; after reading the Epilogue of this book, I will no longer permit myself to reflect critically upon Fr. Henri Nouwen. His honesty is so raw, his exposure of his own humanity and pain so real, I found myself deeply moved to the point of tears. This man truly loved and loves… and in such a Christ-like fashion, he continually permits that love to be nailed to a cross.

    Some other books the reader may find of value:

    Mere Christianity
    Deep Conversion/ Deep Prayer
    The Promise: God’s Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts

  • Rabi Jerry
    14:23 on June 18th, 2012
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    This is an excellent book for someone who has never read Nouwen’s writings. The book carries a great message of hope; that God, who created us in his image and likeness, calls us to live our lives with the knowledge that we are His “beloved” children and that He is always calling us to a deeper love and intimacy with Him.

    In response to negative reviews of this book because it doesn’t beat you over the head with purely Christian messages, there is much to be said for Nouwen’s reaching out to people of all faiths and gently leading them to think about what God’s will is for their lives, and how they are called to live – in love and in loving others. Isn’t that Jesus’ ultimate message to all of us?

  • Alex Fox
    19:24 on June 18th, 2012
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    Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved provides the reader with a look at how we are all blessed, broken, and given in the Name of the Lord. He originally wrote the book for a friend who asked him about God and spirituality. Nouwen provides the reader with an insight into how God’s choosing each one of us as His beloved does not necessarily mean anyone is excluded, a paradox which our society fails to understand and thus rejects. A very insightful book, that is very imporant to me in my journey of faith. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, and I recommend his works to all, especially Catholics.

  • nonemployed
    20:24 on June 18th, 2012
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    Nouwen offers a deep challenge to those who would minister the Love of Christ in this world. Using his characteristically insightful prose Nouwen articulates the post-modern dilema (he calls post-modernity the dilema of “nuclear man”). From there he proceeds to challenge traditional models of ministry, preaching and healing. Nouwen, I would argue through his own expierence, teaches those who would minister to lead others towards the healing love of Christ. He creatively suggests that ministers should change hats, leading people to freedom by articulating empathetically their own woundedness. In essence he is both challenging and inviting the Church to be a fellow wounded traveler in and through the darkness of our wounded world. It is a brilliant work that rewards re-reading.

  • Chris Peterson
    21:14 on June 18th, 2012
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    What does it mean to be a minister (a healer, if you will) in the world of today, to a rootless generation, to people who suffer loneliness and alienation? Henri Nouwen proposed that the wounds of the “wounded healer” can be a source of healing for others. Although this is a short book, it is very profound, and I’m not sure I totally grasped everything Nouwen was trying to say. He moves from the very practical third chapter (a case study of a one-on-one encounter between a clinical pastoral trainee and a lonely dying patient) to the rather esoteric fourth chapter (focusing on the wounded healer) which could have used more practical illustrations. This is a book that probably needs to be read several times, but it can be extremely valuable for the minister, and for everyone else.

  • PrintOutlet
    22:59 on June 18th, 2012
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    Like so many of Henri Nouwen books this is not one that you sit down for some simple reading. It takes a while to digest what he is saying. This is a book that can be read over and over and still get a deeper understanding of what he is saying.

  • Redirect
    0:41 on June 19th, 2012
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    People have been telling me to read Nouwen for years. I finally picked this little volume up, and if the rest of his oeuvre is anything like this, I’ll be reading a lot more by him.

    In the book, Nouwen is attempting to speak to a secular audience, and such a project would demand that Nouwen understand the difficulties of secular society. Nouwen, of course, does possess such understanding. He speaks gently, but probingly, of the ills, the pains, of contemporary life, and he lovingly and persuasively urges that the reader seek healing by recognizing his/herself as beloved by God and by pursuing the sort of life that would be framed by that knowledge.

    The images, the stories, and the prose Nouwen utilizes are all just gorgeous. His depiction of contemporary life is insightful and loving, and his message, though simple, possesses such surprising wisdom. This is a book I expect to return to many times in my life, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

  • tolbot
    4:17 on June 19th, 2012
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    During a time of personal uncertainty, emptiness and sadness, the mere title of this book moved something inside of me; enough to purchase it with the strong intent of reading it, later that evening. Needless to say, I tried several times, but never felt in the mood, although, I knew it would be a good read.
    Six months later, experiencing the same feelings, I took a trip to visit some terminally ill, elder family members and carried this book, as part of my reading.
    Well!! A good read doesn’t begin to describe this book!! It is powerful, enjoyable, moving, easy to read, entertaining, thought provoking, emotional, educational, nurturing and full of love. WOW! All that packed into 119 pages! It is simply written, as though, the author was conversing with me and yet, in other parts, I could hear the Voice of God telling me very simply, that I was BELOVED, a child of His. The power of this book is so Amazing!! As, I write these words, I have an intense feeling of being loved, emotional stirrings in the bottom of my gut and goosebumps on my arms. I am more in touch with God in my daily life, His loving and tender Presence and Voice everywhere, in everything. This book has changed my prior feelings of emptiness, sadness and uncertainty to a more joyful, simple, thankful, childlike approach to living, a sense of peace within myself, a clarity and certainty of my path in life and a powerful, moving love for God in my moment to moment living. Is my life 100 % perfect? Yes, and No, but as I work with God towards that moment of Utopia; I am thankful, centered and at peace in the knowledge that I am BELOVED, safe in God’s Love for me and that everything will unfold, exactly as it is meant to be for me, with my prayer,love,faith and willingness to see God’s message for me. This book has not only energized my faith, but also my life perspective, direction and relationships. Please note, as a Renaissance type of person and avid reader of all types of books, never before have I felt the need to review a book. This is a timely and perfect book for our high anxiety modern times. This book is on my gift giving and sharing list. Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M.Nouwen is a MUST for all, who believe in God or the Universe or a Power greater than us, whatever your faith…This Book will touch Your SOUL and Change your Life!!

  • Justin P.
    6:17 on June 19th, 2012
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    I promise to write a review once I have had the time to read the book.

    Kind regards

    Lisbeth Pedersen

  • Ng Peng Hock
    7:04 on June 19th, 2012
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    This is a magnificent addition to my library. His description of each “wounded” healer suggests nuances that I’d never thought about. The volume helps me to understand a bit better the responsibilities we have to support one another. A great book.

  • best of the best
    8:42 on June 19th, 2012
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    Throughout this book, the reader can detect the history of Henri’s own life, loves, challenges, defeats, and risings. This book provides a concise and easily grasped idea of the Gospel. That Gospel though isn’t necessarily presented in standard evangelical parlance. There is no “you must believe to be saved” admonitions here. Rather, Nouwen presents the movement behind what we normally consider that evangelistic Gospel. Namely, the love of God for people – the people He created. Nouwen wrestles with the now-but-not-yet tension around the Christian life and calls us to live into the people we are. In this idea we sense echoes of Thomas Merton and of “returning to a place we have never been.” We were created in love by God, we are called back to God in that same love that values us, seeks to undergird us, and has shown us our calling. You are beloved of God – live into that belovedness. Even if this writing failed in its purpose, I suspect there are other Freds, and many believers who can identify with the problems named in this book, and who draw daily refreshment from Henri’s reminders.

  • sdsajf
    11:33 on June 19th, 2012
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    It is in our woundedness that we become a source of life for others. That is the thesis of ‘The Wounded Healer”. Ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their hearts and make that recognition the starting point of ministry. This means opening up one’s own wounds and sufferings and thus becoming a wounded healer through hospitality. This is a book that can be read and reflected upon by anyone in Christian ministry, especially the clergy. Nouwen’s direct and penetrating style with creative theology and deep religious insights, make this book worthy of a second and third reading. It is filled with examples from everyday life and anecdotes from different cultures. This book is relevant today in the light of the unproportionately blown up scandals among ministers and consequent wounds to the Christian ministry in general.

  • Rodrigo
    12:46 on June 19th, 2012
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    i read Nouwen’s ‘the life of the beloved’ yesterday and was moved by its simplicity and wisdom. the main theme of the book is that each person is God’s beloved child, uniquely loved and gifted by God. Nouwen bases this theme from the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Wilderness Prophet when the Spirit of God came down and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as God’s beloved son in whom he is well pleased.

    Nouwen expands the idea of belovedness to a communion metaphor, explaining that while each person is factly the beloved we must learn to become that which we are. Nouwen uses four themes from the sacremental act – 1) taking/chosing; 2) blessing; 3) breaking; 4) giving. He describes the process of becoming the beloved as our learning to live as people who are chosen by God, blessed by him, stuck in a broken world, and ultimately finding our highest fulfillment in being given to others.

    it is a moving book that is easy to read. Nouwen lays things out clearly and offers suggestions that are practical and light for groiwng in our understanding of being the beloved. the idea that God has chosen each of us and has speokn words blessing into our life is not profound or new, but owning this fact and letting it impact the deepest parts of us is something that not a few Christ-followers today struggle with.

    how much different would this world be if its people were gripped by the fact that God is a lover who wants to be loved by his creation? how much different if people spoke words of blessing to one another rather than condemnation and judgement? how much different if we grew in strength and faith through our brokeness instead of becoming hardened and depressed? how much different if people’s sole focus was to give themselves away to one another in loving acts and relationship instead of exploition and selfish ambition?

    ‘the life of the beloved’ can be read in a couple hours, but putting its principles into play is something that requires much more time and intentionality to accomplish. the length of journey should not be a deterient however. what else is life about, besides partnering with God to become the way he designed us to be and to help him in reclaiming this world from the darknesss that engulfs it. beocming the beloved and living in the light of this truth will go a long way in a kingdom of God mission.

  • OK but...
    16:39 on June 19th, 2012
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    Henri Nouwen has been blessed with true vision of the human condition. Mr. Nouwen has also been gifted with the answers to solve the condition of “Nuclear Man” and isolation. Anyone who is a minister or healer of any kind should read this book. It is a “must read”. I appreciated Mr. Nouwen’s synopsis’ at the end of each chapter. This truly helped me to “drive the point home”. I thank Mr. Nouwen for writing this book. I am presently reading his “Return of the Prodigal Son” book. Another “must read” book if one is interested in reaching the center of man.

    Gratefully, Teri Lynn Schons

  • y games
    17:47 on June 19th, 2012
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    the song title, What the world needs now is love, sweet love……comes to mind when I think of Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. My copy is tattered and frayed, and loved. I would give this book to everyone I meet, as hope for our world lies in each person feeling loved and precious. His words help to light up the dark places that reside in us all. What a wonderful world we humans could inhabit, if each human being felt cherished and loved. With each loved and loving person moving toward their potential, think of the benefits to our society, to our neighbors. Maybe then we could eliminate the word “enemy”, changing it to stranger, someone we haven’t met yet. Think of the potential for peace. It’s possible. Because all change begins within. I hope your copy also becomes well used, and shared.

  • erveing
    19:27 on June 19th, 2012
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    I just started to read this book but it seems to be pretty good so far. I am excited to finish it!

  • Cole Desir
    23:10 on June 19th, 2012
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    Listening to the audio version read by Nouwen in my car on my way to work, it didn’t seem that big of a deal. But by the second day of listening on my commute, something happened. I noticed myself interacting with co-workers in good humor where only days before I experienced anger bordering on rage. Suddenly other people seemed transformed. I held the door for a woman, a total stranger, carrying packages at the mall and she said, “God bless you today.” I stopped hating my job. I stopped hating the traffic on the freeway. Externally, nothing in my day-to-day life was any better, but I felt better. Nothing outside me had changed, but something in me had changed.

  • Dong Gooslin
    0:15 on June 20th, 2012
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    I’m reading this book with a group of friends, and we all were surprised at how “academic” this book is written. By “academic” I mean, this book seems to be written during Nouwen’s days when he was still at Yale University. The wording and word choice of the sentences are much more collegiate than his later works, which he wrote after going to L’Arche in Toronto. The book is still great and speaks powerfully to things of the Spirit, but it is just a little bit more difficult to understand than say, a John Eldredge book.

  • Josh Lehman
    0:33 on June 20th, 2012
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    The ability to heal even though a person has been wounded is an extraordinary message. Hence the appropriate title for this book. The author proposes that the spiritual counselor relate to their directee from their own personal experiences. He suggests that it is through reaching within oneself that those in this kind of service can truly be of help. Nouwen validates the experiences of many in this or allied professions; that we uncover our own pain and weaknesses as we attempt to guide others.This affirmation is valuable. In healing others, the counselor is healed. In being able to recognize and share our own pain, we can better serve.

    Nouwen offers a cultural backdrop to explain why this approach works. The time is the late 60′s. Forty years later, some of his conclusions have not been borne out. A notable one in my opinion, is the story of Peter. Nouwen builds the case for “nuclear man” as a premise for his theories. I suggest that perhaps Peter was an enlightened man. Read the book and see if you come to the same or other conclusions. In any case, it will make you think.

  • Jerome
    2:45 on June 20th, 2012
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    Life of the Beloved is among the final books published by Nouwen, and in that way is kind of a culmination of much of his life and thought and is thought by many to be his “flagship” work. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than this. Reading this book as a Christian can be a mind and, hence, life altering experience. It was written to some of Henri’s non-Christian friends about how much God loves them (which is certainly true!). And from the way Henri’s life consistently pointed towards Jesus and the Gospel, I am sure that his friendship, love, and words to them in conversation were used by God for the good of the hearers. On that note, I would caution using this book alone as something to give to your non-Christian friends; because as Henri used it, it is best backed up by your life, love for your friends, and pointing them towards Jesus in your day to day life, and not as a gift without a relationship.

    The book is clear, and ultra-concise (you could probably read it in a day or two); yet, the message, of how to live as the Beloved of God amidst a world where there are lies about your identity at every turn, could not be more fundamental to how a Christian lives their life. I wholeheartedly recommend and in fact strongly encourage all Christians to read this book.

  • Curious Minds
    4:24 on June 20th, 2012
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    “Creative service begins with the realization of fundamental woundedness in human nature. Emphasizing that which is in humanity common to both minister and believer, this woundedness can serve as a source of strength and healing when counseling others.” from Edit. Rev.

    The wounded review:
    Writing this review was as hard as delivering baby Henri Nouwen, it coincided with global devastation due the atrocities taking place in the world, and in His holy mystical body. I am writing a recap on six reviews, each of which captured a side of the book and the psyche of its wounded author, beloved late Fr. Nouwen. Trained in Holland as a psychologist and a theologian, Nouwen spent his later years as a conference speaker. He taught at Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame, writing more than one book a year, and travelling widely.

    Wounded Healers:
    St. Paul, the arch-wounded healer, told us about “a thorn was given me in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me”
    Fr. Nouwen’s wound was in his psyche and masterfully does Philip Yancey describe it in his article, in Christianity today, 1966: “The Holy Inefficiency Of Henri Nouwen” in this story, “Richard Foster and Eugene Peterson mentioned an intense young man who had been seeking spiritual direction from both of them. They responded as best they could, answering questions by mail and recommending books on spirituality. Foster had just learned that the same inquirer had also contacted Henri Nouwen. “You won’t believe what Nouwen did,” he said. “He invited this stranger to live with him for a month so he could mentor him in person.”

    Doctor, Heal Thyself:
    It seems this echoed in Henri’s mind when at Cambridge, MA, he started writing the book. As Cry-the-Name (rev 6) rightly mentioned, Prof. Nouwen was in the Ivy ivory tower of Harvard, but he possibly referred to a real experience in: Ministry to a hopeless Man, while he served as a minister in or around Utrecht in his late twenties. Again the title may have been born in his own conscience in Topeka or South Bend, a psychology teacher could not have missed similarity of Franz Jung life to his own.
    “He (Henri Nouwen) had a resume to die for which was the problem, exactly. The pressing schedule and relentless competition were suffocating his own spiritual life.” Philip Yancey

    Healers Wounds:
    How all six reviewers observed the healer and his wounds from different prespectives, is evident in Michael Ford’s Biography of Henri Nouwen, “Nouwen was a prophet to millions of people who heard him speak and read his books, but he also was wounded in so many ways. His life was one of paradox and pain. Nouwen, for example knew some 1,500 people he counted as personal friends, yet he constantly struggled with intense feelings of loneliness.” He announced as a wounded healer: “The master is coming-not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing”( Ministry by a lonely minister)

    Nuclear Man’s ways to liberation:
    Both Nouwen and Merton have similar backgrounds; since both lived in post second World war Europe, got benchmark European education, amended with exposure to great American Academia; they are both Nuclear men, global believers, imitating Christ in different ways. According to J. Donders; they were invoked to their vocation in different ways, and encountered their spiritual adventure in kids like awe, both torn apart, but stayed whole. Their mind and milieu are alike although their wounds were categorically different.

    Quotations For the Wounded:
    “Christianity is not just challenged to ask itself to a modern age, but is also challenged to ask itself whether its unarticulated suppositions can still form the basis for its redemptive pretensions”( Nuclear Man)
    “I am afraid that in a few decades, the Church will be accused of having failed in its most basic task: to offer men creative ways to communicate with the source of human life.” (Ministry for a rootless generation)
    “In this analysis it has became clear that Christian leadership is accomplished only through service” (ministry to a hopeless man)

  • the Troof
    5:17 on June 20th, 2012
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    I totally enjoyed reading this book because I needed a lift in my Spirit. Nouwen did just that…I felt better about my relationship with God when I finished this one. I could get good mental pictures with his manner of writing.

  • FanOfNone
    6:44 on June 20th, 2012
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    This is the first time I ventured outside the evangelical / protestant circles, and I was amazed at the simplicity with which this author was able to present some pretty deep material.

    The part that spoke to me the most was ‘if we can live our lives as authentically as Jesus lived his, then there are many ways to live like Christ’. This was a revelation, I no longer have to stand a street corners, etc. to live like Christ.

    The good author is gone now, but his many books are available for us all. A very good alternative the usual a,b,c … 1,2,3 stuff I was used to.

  • Anjali Kain
    8:53 on June 20th, 2012
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    This is a complex book on a topic that all too often is reduced to oversimplified solutions. We expect our books on healing to be rife with clinical studies and devotional exegesis on selected Biblical verses, passages, or stories. When we are without these two guideposts, many people become uncomfortable. What is a book (and who is an author) that dares to not reference directly either one of these great guides? What (and who) indeed.

    Written forty years ago, this book could have been written today. The disconnectedness, the loneliness, the isolation, and the inability to see the future as a relevant and anticipatory reality remains just as heightened today, even if the casual sex and drug use prevalent when this was written has been mainstreamed in many ways so as not to seem so jarring. In a culture in which always-connected is not just a possibility but an emotional necessity for many young people, this isolation only seems more acute. We can poke each other on Facebook, but how well does anyone really know us? And visa versa? When friendship becomes a commodity that we compete to acquire for social leveraging and virtual influence (not new in itself, but much more blatant now that we can see the numbers), can you really trust anyone’s friendship?

    This book is not easy to read. It is philosophical and theological. Many might claim that it is not practical. Nouwen does not reduce healing to a matter of twelve steps or six necessities or an action plan. Because, of course, healing is not that simple, either for the healer or the healed. Nouwen rather argues that we are all affected by the malaise of isolationism and the undercurrents of hopelessness and cynicism that streak our culture. We are all wounded, all in need of healing. Anyone familiar with the writings of Francis Schaffer and other philosopher/theologians of the period will find Nouwen’s musings to be representative.

    Nouwen makes some observations on the process of listening to those who are wounded, and how to move beyond the clinical listening that reflects but never engages, affirms that something has been said but never demonstrates that what has been said has any effect or meaning to the hearer. Good stuff here, though hardly what most would consider ‘practical’ or ‘hands on’ today.

    Nouwen ends with a fascinating assertion – the idea that hospitality can be a way forward in dealing with the isolationism of our age. That in opening our homes and ourselves to others, we create environments where real connection and real healing can occur. For those who decry the lack of Biblical references in this book, I’d suggest consideration of 1 Timothy 3:2. There, in the midst of many other, more easily defined attributes, “hospitality” is indicated as an important quality of Christian leadership. In my admittedly little reading thus far, I have yet to find a text that deals with this particular quality in any meaningful way. Yet I see the lack of this quality as pervasive in our culture. When no one can be trusted, how can we invite them into our homes, or allow ourselves to be brought into theirs? How can hospitality truly be engaged in when people are conditioned to reject it as suspicious and full of potential harm? Coincidence? I suspect not. I believe that Nouwen is hitting on a key issue here. Not in a manner that solves a problem and enables us to check another box off of our ‘to-do’ list for the week, but in such a way as we alter the environment of the relationships in our lives. We become real to others, and allow them to be real with us. The difference that hospitality can make in a relationship is something that has been borne out repeatedly by experience in my life, both personally and ministerially, yet I doubt we’ll likely see a clinical study on it any time soon.

    This is not an easy book to read if you are not familiar with philosophy or theology. But it’s a worthwhile one. It prompts us to stop and consider that programs are not necessarily what is needed when someone is hurting. They need to know they are heard. That they are not alone either existentially or in their particular hurt, and that it is ok that they are hurt and expressing themselves. Valuable reminders in our clinical, programmatic age.

  • Bink Binkerson
    11:58 on June 20th, 2012
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    There is so much in our every day lives that tries to make us believe that we are no good; we do not count; we don’t measure up. Many of us have begun to learn those messages as a small child. Henri Nouwen has a way of letting you know that you do matter and are precious in God’s sight. In spite of the fact that I have studied theology, I found that when stressed, a feeling of emptiness often overcame me that I could not explain. I knew that God loved me. I knew that God loves everyone. However, that knowledge was in my head. At a continuing education event, a new friend gave me a copy of this book, urging me to “read it soon”. The knowledge that I was loved beyond my wildest imagination sank from my head into the rest of me. I felt joy and love like I had never known before. A silly feeling that I wasn’t entitled to all that love was quickly dispelled by the knowledge that God has more love for each of us than we can imagine – even when we become overwhelmed and feel “like bottomless pits of human need”. What a liberating word of joy that continues to fill my very being. Read it! You’ll be glad you did!

  • Bhangra Monkey
    16:53 on June 20th, 2012
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    Nouwen offers a relativistic approach to faith: He believes that the Christian God is real, but does not want to persuade his secular friends that they need God. He admits in the epilogue that his book failed at communicating with his secular friend, to whom the book was written for; he preaches to the choir of believers. As a believer living in secular NYC, I was unconvinced by his warm & fuzzy message because he makes Christianity look as good as any other life affirming theory. To give you a taste, he says things like “When I know that I am chosen, I know that I have been seen as a special person.”

  • HarryHFN
    18:17 on June 20th, 2012
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    I am reading this for a women’s retreat and found the title very interesting. However,the beginning of it is quite clinical and as a Pastor I struggled with making a connection. With effort and a “dictionary” you can grasp the meaning of the nuclear man. Unfortunately, I did not gain any new insight or best practices in my approach to counseling or ministering to people. I found it an OK read and look forward to learning more from other at during the retreat discussion.

  • Nick R
    20:27 on June 20th, 2012
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    This powerfully written, yet simple book changed my life! In “The Wounded Healer,” Nouwen addresses one of the main challenges of the human condition- our weaknesses. These wounds, as Nouwen refers to them, are so often viewed as sources of shame and guilt for us. He reminds us all, however, that these wounds, can be transformed into strengths, if we will allow them to be.

    By accepting that we are human and addressing our human weaknesses, we can then turn them into helpful resources to extend the gift of emotional healing to others. Because, in order to reach people, we need a point of connection. We can all relate to experiences of emotional woundedness, and within appropriate relational boundaries, they can become instruments of healing.

    Nouwen shares several stories, and conversations that he had with persons going through various experiences of emotional woundedness. One of the most poignant of these was a visit he made to a man who was about to go in for surgery to have a leg amputated. By offering himself as a compassionate listener, he was able to help the man find peace in the midst of a devastating loss.

    A point of clarification that Nouwen makes well is that becoming a wounded healer does not mean that we dump all of our problems on people, or seek to wear them like badges. Instead, by being aware of our woundedness, and facing it, we can become more sensitized to the needs of the people around us- after all we are all subject to human imperfection.

    If you are ready to find hope and a renewed perspective on helping others- read this book! I would highly recommend “The Wounded Healer” to all persons in caring professions, as well as anyone who just want to find peace in the midst of human challenges.

    0:28 on June 21st, 2012
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    I first read this book more than 10 years ago. I loved it then. It really touched me. I recently led a book group discussing this book. Some in the group found it to really touch them deeply giving them the balm they needed; others felt that it was a bit dated. They felt that this was written for a different time.

    The book’s initial purpose, a apology for faith, never really was met, but for the Christian seeking a deeper insight into faith this book is great.

  • the obama way
    3:55 on June 21st, 2012
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    I have read several of Nouwen’s books and this is one of my favorites. He writes from a totally different perspective in an effort to speak to the community of one of his closest friends (of a different faith). Nouwen explores the concept that we are all called as being beloved and that we all feel that deep within.

    I was very impressed that in the epilogue Nouwen humbly acknowledges his own shortcomings in the book’s ability to speak to those outside his own faith. While Nouwen may not have succeeded (in his mind) with the book’s original intent – as a non-catholic this book spoke deeply to me in regard to our being called.

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