We have to understand in order to be of help. The most important thing is that we need to be understood. We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then we will suffer less.
Listening is a very deep practice ...you have to empty yourself. You have to leave space in order to listen.
Thich Nhat Hanh
We are all healers who can reach out to offer health, and we all are patients in constant need of help. Only this realization can keep professionals from becoming distant technicians and those in need of care from feeling used or manipulated.
But when we look at healing as creating space for the stranger, it is clear that we should be willing and able to offer this so much needed form of hospitality.
Therefore, healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention.
Our most important question as healers is not, "What to say or to do?" but, "How to develop enough inner space where the story can be received?"
Healing is the humble but also very demanding task of creating and offering a friendly empty space where the stranger can reflect on their pain and suffering without fear; and find the confidence that makes them look for new ways right in the center of their confusion.
Excerpted from Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, pp. 65-68.
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