Healing Versus Curing

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I thought the Saletan quote was fascinating, and I agree with it almost entirely.

But I do think there is a difference between healing and curing, and I would say that curing is the empirical part, but that healing most definitely has a spiritual component and exists independently of a cure.

The most poignant example in my own life is my first wife, who died five years ago from cancer at the age of 31. She was never to be cured, but at the same time, the cancer gave great meaning to her days, and the time that she did have, and she focused on doing the things that brought the greatest meaning to her life, being a teacher and raising our daughter. There was vast healing in a time when there was to be no cure.

On the other hand, I can imagine circumstances when there is a physical cure, but the trauma of the disease or injury is such that the person never recovers emotionally and is chained by his or her fear.

Maybe I am just highlighting the same distinction Will is trying to make, naming curing the empirical, physical act of removing disease or recovering from injury while naming healing the broader, more emotional and spiritual transformation that disease and injury allow. Certainly, for us to be most whole, we need both and they are intertwined.