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The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  7,982 ratings  ·  338 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…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
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this years and years ago. It changed my life.
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
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-living, own
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.

This is my 3rd visit to this classic and it won't be my last.
Written in 1979, it is probably better understood and more relevant today than then, for the simple reason of our everyday experiences; the brokenness and dysfunction of our world today impinges upon everyone's life in one way or another, and we are also more used to living with contradiction and paradox; a world village that is searching for community, an inclusive nation state that births lonely, depressed or suicidal citizens, the r
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Wounded Healer was another recommendation from Goodreads that was absolutely spot-on. Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest very much concerned with issues regarding community, social justice, and psychotherapy (at least according to his Wikipedia bio). But what clearly comes out in his writing is that he cares about individuals, about ministering. As a Latter-Day Saint very much attuned to the need of ministering in love, I think Henri Nouwen is some excellent material to motivate what w ...more
Benjamin Shurance
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a Christmas gift from a dear friend, and an inspiring read. It is short and a bit dated (it was written in the early 70s), but his writing is really accessible. Nouwen has a lot to say to postmoderns, and many timeless truths about leadership and the reality of redemption ring out. Some things that I underlined:

"Even in the simple form of a conversation betewen two people, leadership can be a question of life and death." (52).

"The mystery of one man is too immense and too profound to be
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
You can never go wrong with Nouwen - one of his best! Read it during undergrad. His key thesis is directed at those who find themselves discouraged with long-established methodology. His advice, go deeper and identify the suffering in your own life and minister from this place of vulnerability. The result: intimacy, wholeness and healing to others through mutual identification. Each individual instinctively is in a search for immortality and he discloses the various ways in which godlessness tri ...more
Mrs. Grover
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Henri Nouwen's writings I am relieved to find nuggets of purest gold in his murky swamps of phychobabble. Here in 1972 he tells us tomorrow's minister must articulate inner events by "the offering of channels through which people can discover themselves, clarify their own experiences and find the niches in which the Word of God can take firm hold," leading their flocks "out of the land of confusion into the land of hope."

He says ministers must walk in the authority of compassion by being in t
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I can honestly say that this book has changed my way of thinking, and is beginning to change my life too. The whole premise is that ministry is entering into the suffering of others, and baring your own soul as well, so that together you can find healing. I want to be this person; not just surfacey concern, but real, personal, heart-felt sympathy and compassion for my fellow man. We're all in the same predicament of life and death and suffering... and I happen to know the answer- it's the love a ...more
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book, The Wounded Healer, challenges each reader to step up and make a difference in the world. The idea of change happening one person at a time is the theme of this book. It was an encouraging read; knowing that the impact I have in this world does matter. We are all broken people and it is through recognizing this brokenness that we begin to find healing. I appreciated Nouwen’s plea to rise up and reach out to our hurting world. As a Christian we have been commissioned to go out and be th ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Basically, this seems geared to ministers in spritual direction. It was good for me too as we are all ministers to each other at times. It's tricky as the old systems don't seem to be comforting to younger people. I'm not young but in many ways I can see why. What this book offers is a way to God in the moment. It was very helpful to me to read a real-life pastoral visit and how it might have been better done for both the minister and for the person who died in surgery. Once again, compassion is ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-version
Such good insights on true Christian leadership and ministry. A couple quotes I liked:

“In this analysis it has become clear that Christian leadership is accomplished only through service.”

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

“The remark “He really cares for us” is often illustrated by stories which show that forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership.

“Christian leadership is called ministry prec
Peter Thurley
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A useful reminder that the painful and lonely life is often the best way within which to help and love others. How can we truly minister to or walk alongside others if we are not willing to be open to our own angst?

Written in the late 70's, the descriptions of a new generation are both bang on and way off. That being said, the solutions being offered by Nouwen are just as relevant today as they were 35 years ago.

It's a short read - if you're in Christian ministry, or even if you want to learn h
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It's on my list 4 20 Feb 17, 2013 03:17PM  
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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
“when the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian.” 104 likes
“Through compassion it is possible to recognize that the craving for love that people feel resides also in our own hearts, that the cruelty the world knows all too well is also rooted in our own impulses. Through compassion we also sense our hope for forgiveness in our friends' eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths. When they kill, we know that we could have done it; when they give life, we know that we can do the same. For a compassionate person nothing human is alien: no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.” 47 likes
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