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Henri Nouwen on Brokenness

Last updated Aug 15, 2023

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# Highlights

There are many things I would like to say to you about brokenness. But where to begin?

Perhaps the simplest beginning would be to say that our brokenness reveals something about who we are. Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality.

The way I am broken tells you something unique about me. The way you are broken tells me something unique about you. That is the reason for my feeling very privileged when you freely share some of your deep pain with me, and that is why it is an expression of my trust in you when I disclose to you something of my vulnerable side.

Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate, and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort.

In fact, I am more grateful for a person who can acknowledge that I am very alone in my pain than for someone who tries to tell me that there are many others who have a similar or worse pain.

Our brokenness is truly ours. Nobody else’s. Our brokenness is as unique as our chosenness and blessedness. The way we are broken is as much an expression of individuality as the way we are taken and blessed. Yes, fearsome as it may sound, as the Beloved ones, we are called to reclaim our unique brokenness, just as we have to claim our unique chosenness and blessedness.