Where Are Your Wounds?

"Where are your wounds?" This was the question posed by Rev. Allan Boesak, a South African Dutch Reformed cleric and anti-apartheid activist, at the Parliament of World Religions. He said that at the end of our lives we will meet our Creator, and our Creator will ask, "Where are your wounds?" If we have no wounds, we will be asked, "Why? Was there nothing worth fighting for?"

"Where are my wounds?" That question sticks to me.

I have psychological wounds, some of my own making and some perpetrated by others. One particular wound I am addressing is the storyline that I am responsible for the emotions and reactions of others. Obviously false, yet the storyline tentacles run deep.

I am learning to take responsibility for my own responses and only my own responses, my emotions and only my emotions. When I sense disapproval coming my way, I stay with my own discomfort and hold my ground until the discomfort dissipates. I send oodles of compassion and self-forgiveness to myself, releasing the layers of over-responsiblity.

In spite of my penchant for taking on too much responsibility for others' emotional state, I also wonder if I am taking too little responsibility.

I make donations, click to sign petitions, and repost incisive paragraphs that cut to the heart of injustice.

But where are my wounds?

What am I sacrificing to bend the arc toward justice?

Does one click on my keyboard absolve me of all further responsibility?

I cannot end violence, income inequality, discrimination, and human-caused climate disruption.  But I can let myself feel more of their emotional weight. I can invite others to do the same and hold space for us to feel the heaviness of what we are doing to each other.

To do so feels like grief work, like a hospice, in which we hold a dying vigil for a familiar way of life that is neither just nor sustainable.

We need rituals, ceremonies and other creative outlets to acknowledge and untangle ourselves from the deep tentacles of what is no longer working.

We need to take action. Sometimes that might be "a click" to support an international effort. More often it is something local, where our work can make a small but immediate difference.

I'm becoming clearer about the nature of responsibility.

I am not responsible for other's reactions when I take a stand. I am not even responsible for the results. My job is not to save the world or even one individual.

  • I am responsible for acting in alignment with the truth of my heart as my heart responds to the woundedness I encounter.
  • I am responsible for continuing to grow as a human being, leading with my strengths and owning up to my shadowy shortcomings.
  • I am responsible for taking care of myself, which includes saying "no" to important work that is not mine to do.
  • I am responsible for using my wounds in service of the common good as I collaborate with my Creator to transmute my pain into compassionate action.

Where are your wounds? What is worth fighting for?