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The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  9,405 ratings  ·  419 reviews
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 preparin ...more
Paperback, 100 pages
Published November 1st 1994 by Darton, Longman & Todd (first published 1979)
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Nathan Assuming the question's final word should be "ministers", I would say no. While there is a ministry angle to this, the book could be just as easily re…moreAssuming the question's final word should be "ministers", I would say no. While there is a ministry angle to this, the book could be just as easily received and applied to anyone with faith in Christ.(less)

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Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone willing to wrestle with the truth
Shelves: nonfiction
I set out to read Henri Nouwen's 100 page book thinking I would finish it in a few days. Instead, as always with Nouwen, it took me several weeks to read. Every time I picked it up I found myself flipping back through my previous reading, and every time I set it down I found myself spending days processing the few pages I just completed.

Nouwen is, at heart, a philosopher and a psychologist and his writing is organized according to a logical formula. Some may struggle against that structure or w
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nouwen’s opening chapter, a description of ‘Nuclear Man’, a prototype ‘modern man’, almost made me give up the book entirely. Nuclear Man—to me—sounded like a 1960/70/80’s person (the book was published in 1979) disillusioned with the Cold War and the Super Powers, living from day-to-day in constant fear of complete annihilation. I recognize Nouwen’s Nuclear Man who, ‘has lost naïve faith in the possibilities of technologies and is painfully aware that the same powers that enable man to create n ...more
Tom Emanuel
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I came to Henri Nouwen on the recommendation of Fred Rogers, and I was not disappointed. This slim volume is somewhat dated (I was pleasantly surprised to see two King Crimson songs quoted in the second essay, for instance), but its central message is timeless: that the very experiences that wound us most deeply are also those from which we can draw the greatest strength. Nouwen does not romanticize suffering; it is not suffering itself that is beautiful, but rather what human beings can do with ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know that Nouwen was quite clear on what he was writing as he put his words onto paper. The mood of loneliness comes through clearly, and there is an insightful analysis of "nuclear man" (which is awfully close to what we would characterize as postmodern today). Nouwen includes a chapter that is kind of a case study of a conversation between a hospital chaplain (in training) and a man with fears about a pending operation, and he analyzes ways that there could (and should) have been conne ...more
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this years and years ago. It changed my life.
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, christian-living
There are a lot of rich insights in this little book. At some point I want to really reflect on some of the meatier statements.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read only two of Nouwen's books so far, and just from those I can say his books warrant a 2nd and maybe a 3rd reading. His insights are rich, dense, and provoke a lot of contemplation. This is most definitely not a book to peruse through, but something to meditate on. I love the title- it perfectly describes the subject of this marvelous short book. People in helping professions develop their compassion and ability to help heal others by being wounded themselves, just as Christ was wounded. ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book looked like a quick read due to its brief ~100 page-length, but this was deceptive. I feel Nouwen's message in the first half of the book, while still relevant, represents the society and culture of my parents' generation. "We have lost faith in technology," he writes. This is the opposite of the truth for Generation Y (and whatever the subsequent generations have been labeled). My peers put faith in little beyond science and technology. Writing in 1972, Nouwen perhaps saw an age that u ...more
Rebekah Choat
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned

Nouwen opens with a description of “nuclear man,” the modern man who is forced to see that mankind's creative powers have reached a point where they hold the potential for imminent self-destruction. Nuclear man is further characterized by a historical dislocation, a fragmented ideology, and a search for immortality. Though originally intended to portray the youth coming of age at the time of the book's first publication in 1972, it is perhaps an even more accurate representation of the g
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Nouwen is in this book, as in all his books, deft, compassionate and insightful into the condition of human suffering and despair. He offers a number of insights into the then-current crisis of "nuclear man". While we might have moved beyond that particular historical epoch, many of the observations remain timely. The last part of the book lays out a very balanced and healthy approach for a minister to drawing from one's own suffering in order to minister to others. That said, this book was by f ...more
Ian Caveny
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
My first encounter with Fr. Nouwen was driven, initially, by an attempt to make sense of my own spiritual woundedness. I had purchased the book as a part of some books I got prior to entering into pastoral ministry; since I have not yet done my seminary training in counseling and pastoral care, I figured a little bit a writing in the right direction could be useful to me.

But I think I was wrong in all these senses. Nouwen in The Wounded Healer does not provide any answer to spiritual wounds, nor
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was given this book after having a conversation with a mentor about the discontent I had been feeling for quite some time in my spiritual life. Nouwen describes this state well when he discusses "Nuclear Man". His way out of that is very simple and balanced, yet profound. First, there must be an interplay between contemplation and action. It is easy to lose one's way through overemphasizing one or the other. The image of a cross connecting two divergent paths is helpful. Nouwen goes on to make ...more
Apr 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the second half of the book more than the slower-paced first half. Henri made some thought-provoking assertions and insights that continue to be sources of contemplation and reflection as I learn what it means to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus. Probably the biggest thing that jumps out at me as I think about what I just read is his point that we, like Jesus, are called to use our individual wounds to assist in authentically helping heal others' wounds. His thoughts brought me to th ...more
Nate Pequette
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a re-read for me after many years. I recently gave it to a friend of mine and then thought I should actually read it again to remember what it was all about. There are some things in here that are a bit dated in the first couple chapters as he talks about what the person of today looks like. This book was written in 1979. But I think that most things still ring true today. We all need compassion. We all need someone to dive into life with. We all need a hope beyond ourselves in Christ. ...more
Daniel Stewart
An essential read for those inspired to serve others with the attitude of Christ. Nouwen effectively undermines the 'how' of compassion, mercy, empathy, and love and cuts to the 'why' - to the motive for our care for others. In so doing, he brings us to the heart of Christ, discussing the universal pain of being a healer, and drawing readers into the significance and value of what it means to be present to those in pain, suffering, and loss. For me personally, it added great meaning to some of t ...more
Stephanie Neely
Mar 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book is older; I agree that there are communities that feel disconnected from historical grounding, "the how we got here" part. I also agree that folks have been encouraged to live in the now and lose sight of their journey that creates meaningful connections to the past and future.

I really didn't see the relevance to being a "wounded healer". I was looking for biblical references and personal or professional connections to healing through brokenness.

I was concerned about his link
Sam Myers
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 for me. The first two chapters were a bit abstract for what I wanted out of this book, but the second two though were pure gold, to the point that my underlining became pretty superfluous as whole paragraphs got the treatment. As Syndrome said in the Incredibles, "And when every [line's underlined] ... mwahahaha ... no [line] will be."
Josh Balogh
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first half of the book was a bit of a slog, but he hit his stride in the last two chapters and they are pure gold. Especially the chapter on the ministers call to be the wounded minister and a healing minister. The latter striking close to my heart as he talked about hospitality & concentration and hospitality & community. Highly recommend this one for any who are gifted and/or called to pastoral care and vocational ministry! ...more
Bailey Frederking
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Not my favorite by him, but I think a part of that is because I haven’t read a book that is written in essays in a minute connected to faith. He lost me sometimes, but it was good to engage and not always agree. A strong ending though that I resonated with in terms of the power of authenticity and not being afraid of the human condition of loneliness and our struggles
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
Powerful in its simplicity and rich with insight into the approaching of healing in Christian ministry from a position of woundedness - the woundedness we all share in the commonality of human suffering. I'll be reading this one again and again.
Beth Wangler
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first chapter was hard to get through (it felt a little like he was blaming the current generations for the way they were raised/the world they were raised in), but after that, the rest of the book was full of beautiful truth. I really needed to read this right now.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like the tone Henri J.M. Nouwen radiate through his writing, how it shows compassion on every page for those in need. For a leader in the church, this is a good reminder on how to approach the mission, even if the idea of atomic destruction as an imminent threat has receded - the problems are still much of the same. For me, this was more of a curiosity read for inspiration and to give Nouwen's writing another look.
Stacy Rogers
I struggled to connect with this book as the beginning is dated. However the second half of the book was valuable. Since I am not a pastor it gave me some insight as to why I connect with some pastors when preaching and not others.
Aleece White
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“A Christian community is therefore a healing community, not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.”
Samuel Kassing
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
What I enjoyed about this book was Nouwen's critique of our society's hurry. And his understanding that the minister's job isn't to "fix" people. But, to be a presence that points people to Jesus.
Ulvis Katiss
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henri’s writing penetrates deep within my soul once again. He is a person I feel a connection towards that I do not feel with many others. I so wish that he would still be with us.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
A profound, life-changing book. <3 As you read, its wisdom and beauty rises exponentially. ...more
J. Scott Samarco
Great read!

We are all wounded and in need of healing. However, we have Jesus, our great source of liberation who heals all wounds, thus making us into wounded healers. We are now called to share our wounds as healing agents for others.
Lizzie Lowrie
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is beautifully written. The powerful challenge to be a wounded healer is crafted around story. Moments in this book are deeply challenging and still contemporary despite the book being written a while ago.
Christopher Adam
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
“A door opens to me. I go in and am faced with a hundred closed doors…” Those thoughts from Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia lay some of the foundations of a theological study written in 1972 by Henri Nouwen that encourages Catholic priests and other ministers to reach out to the vulnerable they serve by recognizing their own personal vulnerability. As the late theologian and Catholic priest writes in The Wounded Healer — Ministry in Contemporary Society, a minister ought to “recognize the suffe ...more
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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