Triaging Spiritual Wounds
Written by Ray Fairman   

I just returned from a 10-day deployment to a Midwestern University that was the site of a recent campus tragedy. While I was “boots on the ground” as a part of a faith-based response team, I took some time during my daily assignments to just sit with God and observe and assess the impacted students, staff, faculty, nearby residents and first responders from the public safety sector.

I was interested in finding out if there truly was a difference in the methods they each selected to deal with the tragedy and its aftermath. I found, as I expected I would, widespread impact across the entire spectrum of the community’s inhabitants. Their status did not seem to matter in the least. Cops, Students and others tried to ignore the impact of the incident unless they were in some way directly impacted through the first, second or third degree of separation.

The initial outpouring of sympathy was intrinsically valid, however, it appeared that a large portion of that outpouring was primarily based on emotion and was not a covenant-based expression. Covenants are life-long promises like those that God has made with man, not like those man has frequently made with God. Covenants require a deep level of commitment. Well meaning souls, I am sure, meant to show those who were and those who they thought were undergoing some sort of crisis, due to the critical incident that had recently occurred, just how much they cared for them. This well intentioned emotion was just that, emotion.

I hate to say it but I have felt that we are a tragedy-oriented society for some time. I seem to have come to that realization somewhere back along my law enforcement career. I think that people will only deeply react and make commitments when they are personally impacted within the first three degrees of separation.

We also make assumptions that do not always turn out to be valid when analyzed at length. It is a very common practice to make decisions and assessments that are based on their own experiences and cultures, thus assuming that everyone else will react the way they would react. I am sure most folks in the affected community felt that the atrociousness of the incident would impact everyone the same way. It was obvious to me that for many reasons that did not nor does it always prove to be a valid assumption. There are many ways a person suffers wounds and they will not always be evident nor will every “wounded warrior” display the same effects.

When I was in combat as a US Marine, I could depend on other Marines to handle the quick “First Aid” needs I might require to keep me in the fight. If my wounds were more severe I knew I could count on the “corpsman” assigned to my unit to take what ever steps necessary to “triage” my case and take the indicated actions or send me “up channel” to the battalion aid station where some Navy Doctor would put as much effort as necessary into getting me back in the war.

Spiritual, psychological and emotional wounds required the same type of First Aid and triage. They also, however, require a “Spiritual Corpsman” to make those wound assessments and there are all too few qualified spiritual corpsmen among those professing to be members of our Christian Army. If we are to successfully treat our own wounded brethren, we will need to train more folks to recognize and attend these special types of wounds impacting the lives of other Christians.

Troubles and challenges will always be found along life’s highway. In fact, in my humble opinion, there are only two types of warriors in God’s Army, “Wounded Warriors” and liars. Everyone of us Christian Soldiers has endured more than one unfair, difficult or painful situations and earned more than one “Sacred Heart” in battle I am sure.

When considering “Triage” it is not such an important issue whether we consider ourselves wounded or not or in need of treatment or not. What is important is that someone other than ourselves does the triage. They will do a better job of determining the answers to the following questions:

1.      Which of the victim’s wounds needs treatment?

2.      How the wounds will affect the victim?

3.      How far along the recovery process is the victim?

4.      Can the victim’s wounds make them a stronger person?

5.      Can God use the experience to His glory?

Before we try and explore the types of wounds you might have experienced or are currently suffering from I would like to ask you a simple question.  Be honest with yourself. Have you ever experienced or are you now experiencing any degree of the following: Anger, Fear, Depression, Insecurity, Irritability, Defensiveness, Confusion, Negativity, Melancholy or hopelessness? These are what medical personnel would call symptoms.  These symptoms will indicate to a spiritual corpsman that somewhere down deep within, our hearts have been wounded and are as yet not healed. So Wounded Warrior it is time to learn a little about just what kinds of wounds we might expect to suffer when we engage in spiritual warfare.

There are many different types and sources of spiritual, psychological and emotional wounds a person might suffer as they journey through life.

  1. Physical wounds – These are wounds that generally require qualified medical attention. Your physical body hosts your psychological, emotional and spiritual welfare. We need it to maneuver through the physical world in which we exist.  Your body is impacted by disease, injury, genetic imperfections, accident or aging. When it experiences these wounds you are forced to temporarily or permanently limit your potential or interact with life in a different manner. The key to recovering from these wounds may be found in accepting treatment, then rehabilitating the body and returning to the journey when your strength and mobility returns. This may involve spiritual retraining, attitude adjustments, improvisation, adaptation and fortitude in order to overcome this wounds perceived impact.
  1. Bad choices – These wounds are inflicted by the selfish, stupid and impulsive choices we or someone close to us frequently make. Sometimes people we have no connection will make this kind of choice and the result will also impact our life. These wounds (decisions) often lead to painful consequences. When these wounds begin to hurt, the resulting pain tends to make us search for someone to blame for the mess we are in the midst of dealing with and not always finding that person because it is often us. If we could go back and make a different decision, most of us would do so because the resulting pain is usually our own fault. Often the only way for these wounds to heal is by moving forward in Jesus Christ

  1. Verbal wounds – “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me…” Oh if that were only true. We have all heard that as children and when we are talking about others, or listening to the gossip about someone else, we espouse that philosophy still as adults. But don’t let anybody say something about us. When their verbal grenades explode in our vicinity and impact our lives, perceived reputations or welfare, God help those who hurled them when we recover. It doesn’t matter if the assault was intentional or unintentional, random or premeditated; the words cut us to the core. Sometimes the silence of a relationship leads to verbal wounds and can be just as isolating and painful. The absence of words imparts feelings of abandonment and unworthiness. These wounds are discouraging and lead to feelings of rejection that can steal our confidence and depression. These wounds make us feel ridiculed and sometimes even steal our dreams. They can have a lasting impact if untreated.

  1. Social wounds – These wounds are often the easiest to ignore because we have a tendency to deny their presence. A common treatment for these wounds is to say, “I don’t care what people think of me.” Another treatment is the “I don’t need anybody” Treatment. It is a fact that the first step to making a wound fatal is to use one of those treatments that ignores the damage it is doing.  These wounds are usually indicated by feelings of humiliation, exclusion, belittlement and disrespect. Remember the fox that said the grapes were sour really wanted them. Don’t overlook a wound just because you think it shouldn’t bother you.

  1. Family wounds – Any wound is accompanied by pain, but the pain from a family wound can often be unbearable. You expect support and compassion from your parents, spouse and children and when their actions inflict wounds they are devastating. It is not unknown for these types of wounds to be life threatening. These wounds are also applicable to the Law Enforcement and Military families because of the very tight bonds of brotherhood formed by those of us who live our lives bound by such loyalty and tradition.

  1. Spiritual wounds - These might be called “friendly fire” wounds. When a Christian, congregation or fellowship is the inflictor of the wound, the victim can easily feel that the wound was inflicted in accordance with God’s will. We need to remember that God does not wound us. However, to many of us discipline is always translated punishment. These wounds often seem like a curse because they came at the hands of the clergy or a fellow believer. After all who can fight with God and if He is against us who can be for us? This alone should be a wake up call for the church to train more spiritual corpsmen and train them who to give the proper spiritual treatments. We also need to train the rest of the church on the proper use of their primary weapon, the Bible. Many of them do more harm than good with that weapon because they are poorly trained in its use. That unfamiliarity has injured many a lost person as well as a saved brother.

  1. Financial wounds – A key responsibility in our culture is that a man will and can care for his family. The need for financial help is for some of us a critical incident that can trigger many other feelings of inadequacy. This sense of failure that he has not proven himself capable burdens him and blocks his way with other feelings such as guilt, humiliation and self-reproach. Getting members of the body past their need is a real duty of the church. If the church cannot take care of its own: Who will? And how can they take care of the lost? Compassion and being a good steward begin at the Cross and the Cross is in Church.

  1. Occupational wounds – This was until recent times primarily a male wound, You see men frequently wrap up their identity in their occupation. When meeting some other male for the first time, the first question we tend to ask is what they do for a living. When we are unemployed, laid off, downsized, ignored, passed over, or fired the resulting wound is traumatic. We often feel harassed, minimized, abused, disrespected and powerless to change the circumstances.

  1. Emotional wounds – All the previous wounds contain an emotional component at some level. Sometimes we get so wrapped around the axel with the emotional component, that it becomes the infection and the cause is lost behind this “virtual” emotional wound, requiring its treatment before the original wound can be identified and treated. This generally requires a seasoned counselor to provide the correct diagnosis.

Well that is a quick down and dirty on the types of wounds we might be encountering as we continue our study dealing with God’s wounded warriors. Next time we will go a little farther and start our triage by asking ourselves a question or two.

Chaplain Fairman

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