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If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your path.
(Mary Webb)

A healing presence… What is that? You may not have words to describe it, but I bet if you saw it you’d know instinctively what it is.

Have you ever stood in the room of someone who is dying and watched their caretakers give them as tender care and as cooing words as they’d give a newborn baby? Have you listened to that caregiver speak soft words of truth to the person instead of deflecting that person’s fear of the future? I have. I see this healing presence in my sister every time I’m with her and her husband who is dying of cancer.

Have you ever observed a support group where others sit respectfully and quietly by as a person who is speaking feels for perhaps the first time in their life their voice is being heard? (For interesting insight into this type of healing in our country’s judicial system, Google “restorative justice.”)

Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to visit an aging family member or friend who is just lonely and needs someone to talk to because they feel forgotten. Or sat with your spouse at the end of a day and listened to them decompress from an awful experience at work. If you have, then you’ve been practicing a healing presence. And I bet you didn’t even know it.

What IS a healing presence? Grief counselor (among many other professions) James E. Miller explains it this way:

Healing presence is the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with others, believing in and affirming their potential for wholeness, wherever they are in life.

So it’s not something for which a person needs to be professionally trained. It usually requires little activity other than the giving of time. And it may seem as if you’re doing nothing in particular at all — though it may be making a tremendous difference in someone’s life. Maybe even a complete stranger’s. But what it is, is an art…

A friend wrote to me once: My friend, I would not wish the darkness away from you or attempt to artificially prop you up at this time as though you were weak and unworthy. But I will sit with you here in this dark place and tell stories and share nourishment and heat. He was practicing a healing presence in his own unique way.

Practicing a healing presence is an art, not a science, and one to which we can each bring our own special gifts and deep experiences thereby leaving our distinctive fingerprints on another person’s heart. Let’s talk about it for a couple of posts…

Can you recall other examples you may have seen of people practicing a healing presence? Please share them.


Picture Source: Crossroads University