Wounded Healers

You might have heard this old axiom: “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Which is funny in both it’s ridiculousness as well as it’s truth.  Not all people who make the choice to teach do so because they aren’t able to be successful in any other field.  Many teachers feel a true calling to teach.  A calling to help others learn and grow and to develop a love of life-long learning. 


Yet, it’s also true that there are teachers out there who find themselves in this profession simply because they aren’t able to do anything else.  They don’t have a calling to teach, they simply need to provide an income for themselves and their family.  And they haven’t been able to find any other profession that has worked out.  The former teacher transforms the lives of their students.  The latter teacher goes through the motions and collects a paycheck, regardless of their impact on their students.


Now all you teachers out there, don’t get up in arms.  Walk with me for a moment and try to understand what I’m about to say.  For I’m not going to stop with teachers.  A less well-known axiom is: “And those who can’t teach, go into ministry.”  I say less well known, because I might be the only one who says it.


For I remember my shock and amazement when I first entered seminary. I was floored and somewhat alarmed to find people sitting next to me, studying to become ordained pastors, who were wounded healers.  Not Carl Jung inspired wounded healers that had experienced trauma in their lives, recovered and were now looking to help others heal from their very own trauma. 


But wounded healers in the sense of people who believed that working with others, trying to help others, would bring about healing in their very own lives. People who were not going into ministry to help others, but to manipulate others woundedness, in order to feel personally healed.  People who truly believed that trying to heal others would bring healing for their very own deep wounds. 


The writing was on the wall, but they couldn’t see it.  How can anyone truly believe that bringing your woundedness into a wounded situation would bring about any form of healing for anyone?  Yet, these were second, third and in some cases fourth career people.  Their woundedness was so profound that they had not been able to find vocational or economic success in any other profession. Yet now, sitting in a seminary, they seemed to find a community and a possible vocation.  They truly believed that God would heal them, as they ministered to other wounded people.  And they would be able to pay their bills. 


Now understand I’m not saying that all people who go into ministry fall into this category of wounded healers.  Just like I’m not saying that all teachers are teaching because they can’t do anything else.  All I’m saying is that I’ve been shocked at the number of seminary students, as well as ordained pastors, that are wounded healers.  People who are trying to find healing for themselves, in the active participation of trying to heal others.


This type of wounded healer is trying to do the right thing – help others heal – for the wrong reasons – so that they themselves can find healing.  And this, hopefully you see, is a recipe for disaster.  There’s a difference between doing good things, because that’s who you are.  And doing good things because you desire to receive some kind of personal benefit.  The former is operating out of a place of healing.  The latter is operating out of a place of woundedness.


I’m also not saying that all pastors need to be fully healed before they go into ministry.  For none of us are fully healed in all areas of our lives.  We all have work to do, transformation to experience.  What I am saying is that whether you’re a pastor or a teacher or a lawyer or a plumber, take the time to honestly evaluate why you do what you do.  Are you doing it for the right reason, because it’s a reflection of who you are?  Or are you doing it for the wrong reason, because you’re looking for some kind of healing in your own life?    

In the case of a pastor, if you are wounded, don’t look for your healing in the ministry of healing others.  First, find your very own healing and then go out and help in the healing of others.  If you’re a teacher, don’t teach just to get a paycheck.  First, find your love of learning and then go out and help others develop their very own love of learning.


In other words, the point of all of this is: Self-promotion, self-healing, self-anything is never a good reason to do what you do.  Do what you do, because of who you are, for the benefit of others.  Let’s start a new axiom: “Those who know who they are, can do anything!”