Can we give more than we have?

by JordanB

Can we give more than we have? The best healers heal out of their own intimacy with brokenness. However, the capacity to heal is one that must be learned. Not through the means that are typically thought – through school, or through some expert knowledge or mastery of a subject matter – but through wisdom. Wisdom bridles the powerful forces of compassion,  righteous anger, enthusiasm, or whatever emotion is pushing us toward the act of healing. It magnifies their power exponentially. Wisdom is what allows us to modulate our distance towards others. Our emotions are what allow us to wade into the swamp of human suffering; wisdom is what allows us to wade back out. With wisdom we are able to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and not be overcome by evil. I know people with compassion and no wisdom; I see them sink in the suffering that they wanted to help.

How does one get wisdom? I do not know. In a conversation I had with a Russian Orthodox abbot, he said that it is necessary first to devote one’s self to the contemplative life, to train the mind to know the presence of the divine. Others might say that it is learning to recognize and intuit permanence in the midst of impermanent forms. At a fundamental level, wisdom is some sort of encounter with the ground of being, even if it is not called that. It often accompanies, or is accompanied by, a sense of peace toward the source of our sufffering (i.e., non-being). In psychology and social work, it is recommended that therapists engage in “self” work, especially through their own therapy and supervision. In the absence of religious language, this aims at the very same thing, the uncovering of the source of suffering which in the same moment allows for its healing. In my own life, I have found it necessary to perform regular “housekeeping,” to shine the light on clutter that accumulates within me and set it back where it belongs. This in addition to seeking deeper understand and direct knowledge of that which grounds my being. Very few people have time to both seek wisdom and heal. Usually there is some some sort of compromise, though my bias says that there must be preference for the former. Those that can do both come to be known as saints, prophets, and messiahs.