Healing is often confused with curing. But although there are similarities, they’re not the same thing.
The word healing actually comes from the old English ‘hal,’ which means whole, and it’s also the root of the word ‘holy’. The effect of healing is to make whole the parts of us which have become fragmented. Where we feel the pain of brokenness.
So what’s the difference between healing and curing? Healing may result in us having the strength to cope with situations and conditions that would otherwise be unbearable. But it doesn’t necessarily make them go away.
Curing implies that the condition is dealt with, so that it no longer troubles us, at least superficially. We search for cures for all kinds of common and rare diseases, but with healing it’s often the other way round. In our deepest distress, we are also at our most open, and then it’s healing that finds us.
Earlier this year, I was asked if I would see an elderly man who was in the final stages of cancer. We met regularly over a period of a few months. Sometimes he would be brought to me by his daughter, other times I would visit him in his home. He was charming, and a great character, and he bore his illness with fortitude and dignity. Would it seem strange if I were to say that they were joyful meetings? Yet they were!
We called them healing sessions, and he found them very soothing and comforting. Our final meeting, he was very weak, very frail. I sat by his bed, and we talked a little, and when talking became no longer necessary, we listened to the silence. When I left him, he was sleeping, and I knew I wouldn’t see him again. He died two days later. Afterwards, his daughter told me these sessions had made all the difference, not just to her father, but to the whole family.
The healing process brings a sense of deep inner peace. It releases energy that has become blocked by old hurts and fears that are nevertheless difficult to let go of, and which sometimes manifest as physical illnesses. It can allow us to come to terms with and accept things in our lives that are difficult and that require real courage and honesty to face up to. That require forgiveness.
It can allow us to see aspects of ourselves we are not so comfortable with, that we’ve rejected, and to acknowledge ownership of them. To do this is psychologically and physically extremely healthy, and indeed a vital step on the path to healing.
Curing and healing both imply the relief of pain. But healing is deeper. It results in an inner shift, and the benefits are felt like the ripples in a pool, improving the life of the person who has experienced the healing and, in all kinds of ways, the lives of the people closest to them.
Healing, wholeness, and holiness are all related through that little word ‘hal’. Which indicates that healing is much more than a relief of certain symptoms. It’s a deep and sacred process that brings us to fullfilment and completion, and in doing so empowers us to find the happiness we all seek.