Faith and Harm

a.j.k. o'donnell
3 min readFeb 23, 2022

Finding Divinity in Our Capacity to Tend Wounds.

I have spent my life finding G-d among the Darkness. It is quiet there, calm in a way. It is a terrifying peace. A difficult solitude.

As a child, I had difficulty understanding why we didn’t pray for “demons”. I was surrounded by “them”. Demons — being people who live in their wounds. Who sit down in them, and weaponize them to harm others. I saw into them — the truth behind the masks.

I was raised a Roman Catholic, and was inherently fascinated by what we deemed “Darkness”. For me, a young feminine and queer child, I understood myself to be of that “Darkness” — this unholy “Otherness”. I finished my conversion to Judaism in 2021.

I previously worked for a nonprofit that provided aid to individuals who were suffering from incarceration and the harm of the prison industrial complex. These people, our human siblings, were also LGBTQIA2S+ and/or living with HIV/AIDS. The plight of our siblings was perhaps the closest I have ever felt to holiness in my life — and it was in that space where I was stripped of self. It was here where I was holy, wholly broken.

The complex holiness of this space was overwhelming. It tested me.

I was asked to hold wounds for hundreds of people, sit with them — many, many being transgender like me. At the same time, I hold my own wounds. I saw nothing but wounds, without space for them to heal and come to the Light. I saw nothing but suffering in Darkness.

I was reading letters from people talking about their favorite flowers — while also admitting they were in prison for murder or rape. While also having experienced deep trauma and wounds before being harmed by the prison industrial complex. The complexity of these holy letters was hard to hold for my twenty-one-year-old self. It weighed on me to a point of snapping.

I heard the cries. I heard the weeping. I heard the wilderness. The desolation.

A voice is crying in a wilderness

We can not heal in the Dark. But the Darkness teaches us a great deal. It shows us where the Light resides.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you” — Rumi

When we understand, that we are a world in the Dark — a world of wounds and cycles — then we can begin to repair ourselves by tending to these wounds. Our wounds need healing and care, not just bandages and prayers. They need sacred surgery. They demand to be Spoken.

Where are the wounds?

Let us look upon them.

Let us speak them.

Let us tend to them.

Let us Heal them.

And in that healing, we will find G-d.

As a Jew. As a human. As a survivor — I have Faith we can.



a.j.k. o'donnell

wordsmith, activist, and artist. She is the author of the collection "This Void Beckons".