II: Being Aware of our Wounds

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

-Walt Whitman

Sometimes, what people need most from us is to be with them in their pain. In these moments, often the most validating statement we can make to the suffering person is “I have no idea what it is like to feel the way you do right now.”

Our first inclination may be to tell them we understand when, in fact, we don’t. We might want to understand. But, that’s not the same. It’s patronizing to pretend we understand when we don’t. If we search our hearts, we might begin to realize that in these times when we try to comfort a person in great distress, we are actually trying to comfort ourselves. We do this because we are uncomfortable with their discomfort. Witnessing their pain brings up difficult feelings for us and we react.

It is impossible for us to be truly empathic until we reconcile this. We all suffer in some way or another. When we acknowledge our own woundedness, we can draw on our experience to give someone the love and kindness they need when they are hurting. This is compassion.

When we show compassion, when we can sit with a person in his or her pain, we become their spiritual benefactor. Not only are they drawn to us, they gain the ability to pass this gift on to yet another.

Help me make peace with my woundedness so I can give people in my life the love they need when they are hurting.