The Truth About Theology Students (or, The Truth About Why I Study Theology)

Denial of pain is not uncommon among seminarians and theology students, and it impairs mission, ministry, and relationships among families and friends. Sometimes students begin their studies seeking to heal the world but fail to recognize their own brokenness as the source of that zeal. They discover the needs of street people, the ill, or survivors of global tragedies without asking why they themselves are so drawn to the afflicted, or alternatively, why they want to work only with the healthy and prosperous.

Overlooking the intimate connections between their inner worlds and the plight of others, the students deprive themselves of one of their deepest resources of empathy and compassion. Without their own stories, ministry becomes a projection of their wounds onto the world, or mission becomes a one-way street in which the “whole” condescend to help the “broken.” In these imbalanced relations, the afflicted become objects of instead of subjects; the well-intentioned burn out; and solidarity, mutuality and friendship are thwarted.

Kathleen O’Conner, Lamentations & The Tears of The World, p. 93

I read these words in my research for my dissertation and I was cut to the heart.

Maybe the reason I am doing my dissertation on Lamentations was because I needed to read this book.

It is so much easier to project one’s wounds onto the world and then busy yourself healing them, rather than admit those wounds scar your deepest self and then cry out for help.


Add yours →

  1. I thought this was going to be a longer piece Ian

    I’d like to hear more – I’m sure there is more for you to write; concerning both denial of pain, and allowing ourselves to be (know and feel) healed.


  2. I agree – there is a lot more to be said! Speaking as a “wounded healer”, I know that the work I do has become much more powerful and effective over the past 20 years – not because I am developing better strategies but because I am more aware of my own brokenness and the way that God has brought (and continues to bring) healing to wounded areas of my life. If you know my story, it’s fairly obvious why I now do a lot of work with returning missionaries who are struggling to adjust, for example. When I started out as a psychologist though, I hadn’t got a clue and was so out of touch with my own feelings and needs. It’s been a long journey!


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