Called to be a wounded healer
Before a commercial plane takes off, flight attendants go over safety rules for passengers, pointing out exits and what to do if yellow oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. âIf youâre traveling with a small child,â they may say, âremember to secure your mask before assisting anyone else.â That sounds counterintuitive, contrary to our âothers firstâ ethic, but if the parent passes out trying to help the child first, both may be unsafe.
From the Zohar, Jewish mystical literature, comes a beautiful story about caring for both ourselves and others. When Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi came upon the prophet Elijah, he asked, âWhen will the Messiah come?â
Elijah replied, âGo ask him yourself. Heâs sitting at the gates of the city.â
âHow shall I know him?â
âHe is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them all up again. But the real messiah unbinds his one at a time and immediately binds that area again, sayÂing to himself, âPerhaps I shall be needed: if so, I must be ready so not to delay for a momentâ.â
In a real sense, all moral people are called to be wounded healers, not neglecting our own wounds while assisting with the wounds of others. Itâs not an either-or, but a both-and, deal. Like the parent on the plane, I may be unable to take care of my child if I havenât first cared for myself. That sounds like Jesusâ teaching about the greatest commandment, âLove your neighbor as yourself.â
Thereâs plenty of hurt out there; thereâs plenty inside of us. Itâs not that they are wounded and we are not. Itâs that our awareness of and attentiveness to our own woundedness can inform and enhance the help we offer others.