Does Time Really Heal Wounds?

There are some pieces of common, cultural wisdom that are so often quoted and repeated that we fail to notice just how devastatingly stupid they are. And I do mean devastating. And stupid.

I heard an interview with a man the other day who was describing a broken family situation. The interviewer asked him whether his relationship with his son had improved recently. His response was something to the effect of “I’m just trying to be patient. You know, time heals all wounds.”

Sounds right. Patience. Waiting. Healing.

Time heals all wounds.

Does it, though?

Think about the analogy. Does this idea in any way reflect the reality of healing? As a child I busted my head open a few times. I fell off a porch. I crashed in to a chain link fence on a tricycle (It involved being a test case for two of my older brothers and them pulling me with a 20 foot rope down the sidewalk at top speed. The blood ruined my 1987 Twins World Series Champion sweatshirt. But I’m not bitter.) I was hit in the forehead by a hammer that flew out of a rather burly friend’s hand. And not one time did my mother or anyone else look at the blood running down my face and say “time heals all wounds.”

I broke my arm in second grade. I broke my collar bone in high school. Neither time did my parents wait for me to heal.

No, they took me to a doctor. Without that care I would have been at risk for infection. The wounds could have festered. And I likely would have had three really ugly scars. The bones would have set crooked and I would have lost limb function. I might have healed, but I never really would have fully recovered.

It’s not any any different with emotional, relational, spiritual or psychological wounds. Leave them alone and the blood loss will be significant, the possibility of infection is incredibly high, and the scars will be ragged. Wounds to the heart or emotions are even more likely than physical wounds to spread and cause damage elsewhere, to fester and bring infection to those around me. An untreated wound on my head leaves a scar. An untreated wound in my heart mighty end up scarring others.

The idea of leaving woundedness to time is only helpful if it encourages patience, not if it leads to passivity. It takes action to care for the hurts of the heart. It takes cleansing and binding. It takes the care of others, their help and attention. Often it takes repeated efforts as the wound lingers. Sometimes it takes therapy and rebuilding lost functionality – mental and emotional “muscles”. All this does take time, but time is simply what is spent doing the work of recovery. It is not the healer.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Time doesn’t have any power. Time is just the space during which God can use the actions of people to heal wounds from the outside while he works from the inside.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life