Practically everyone is familiar with the saying of the ancient Greek dramatist Menander. He coined a well-known phrase more than two millennia ago:
"Time heals all wounds." Menander (342-291 BC)
Is it true, or is there more to this old saying? Let's look at what it means today and how it is often used and sometimes misused.
How time can heal many wounds
There is great wisdom in realizing that time can indeed heal many wounds. Yes, it can heal many, or perhaps a better adjective would be most. Some wounds, however, never heal. This is usually because the wounded person cannot forgive.
By the way, to be clear, we are not talking about physical wounds. These are wounds to our psyche, which consists of our mind, heart, and soul.
Given enough time, wounds to our psyche can heal to a great degree. They reside in our memory, and memories are prone to shifting and changing. As we live our lives, we add more memories and broaden our perspectives, causing these past wounds to occupy a smaller part of our overall experience, thereby lessening their effect.
"Time mends all, ends all things earthly." B.C. Forbes (1880-1954)
Wounds and forgiveness
Even a significant amount of time passing may not heal some wounds, especially those bound by unforgiveness. Unfortunately, some people are wounded so severely by others it can be practically impossible to forgive. So long as you choose to hold on to these wounds, forgiveness is impossible, so how can they ever be healed?
Even at my age, which is likely twice the age of my average reader, I have held on to one wound I still struggle with on occasion. Yes, I have had therapy and been through many programs in the church on healing through forgiveness, but this wound can still hurt at times.
I am not saying some wounds are beyond help. Quite the contrary! I have received complete healing from many other wounds by embracing forgiveness, and it is a wonderful, freeing feeling when it happens and forever afterward.
Yet this one thing I have refused to let go of completely can still hurt at times. Fortunately, the longer I live, the more it diminishes. I still want completeness of healing in it and am hopeful the time will come when I receive it. I realize it is all up to me and my willingness to forgive. I accept that responsibility and continue to pray for that person and the strength to forgive fully.
If you have a wound you continue to struggle with, seek help. There are many support groups both inside and outside the church. Do not hesitate to see a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, depending on your need. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and the help they provide can be life-changing.
"Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it. Bitterness sickens life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes." Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969)
What can you do when someone is suffering?
The most powerful thing you can do when you are with someone in the midst of suffering is to just be there. You do not need to "fix" them. There is little anyone can say that will help in such a situation. No, when a wound is fresh, most people do not want advice or wisdom from anyone. Let me explain.
I learned this lesson when a good friend called me right after the tragic loss of my first wife. During the call, he did not try to "help" me with words. It is at such times when many will say things like "time heals all wounds," or some variant such as "give it time," or "time will make it better."
Rather than try to offer me such "wisdom," he was just there. He was with me even though he was more than a thousand miles away in Texas. As I wept, hurt to the core of my being, he was there, on the other end of the phone. He knew my pain and wept with me, saying little more than my name, consoling me far more than anyone else had.
The time we spent on the phone that day remains more meaningful than I could ever express. Somehow I could feel his presence, his care, and his heart. He was there for me with his whole being. It was a rare experience, but it was so powerful it is etched forever in my memory. What did I do to deserve such an amazing Christian friend?
"I've learned... That love, not time, heals all wounds." Andy Rooney (1919-2011)
The importance of faith
The greatest healing in my life from serious wounds has come from one thing, faith. A major benefit of being a Christian is how it can significantly expand your perspective about life, death, trials, tribulations, and wounds. Coming to Christ can also greatly enhance your ability to find peace, joy, happiness, and fulfillment in every area of life. Christianity has so much to offer my heart breaks for those who needlessly suffer without a personal relationship with Christ.
Were it not for faith in God and Christ, I cannot imagine going through life as I did. Seeing so much tragedy and experiencing so much heartache in these many decades I have lived, my faith did far more than keep my head above water. Faith has given me an amazing life despite all the difficulties.
Wounds are a very personal subject for most of us. When we help someone in their suffering, we often receive more healing in return. I have yet to meet a person who has not experienced wounding in life. Whether it is a breakup, some form of abuse, or the death of someone you love, at some point, we all experience wounding.
Some hide it better than others, but we can heal by embracing things like love, forgiveness, and Christ. I wish I could tell you how to avoid being wounded, but all the advice in the world can not prevent it from occurring to everyone at some point. I hope you are spared any deep wounds and pray that you find healing for every wound you experience.
I leave you with one of my favorite scriptures. May it fill your heart with hope and love:
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalms 143:3 NIV
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