Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

We are the Medicine

Written by: on October 13, 2023

“We are the medicine”. This was a quote from a physician at the beginning of my study as an Anam Cara apprentice. Anam Cara is a celtic phrase that means “soul friend”, basically a midwife of the soul. This physician spoke to us on the importance of this phrase, “we are the medicine” as a way of valuing the clinician at bedside. Who they are as they show up is more important than anything else. It begs the question if we are the medicine, how well do we know that medicine? My favorite concept from this lecture as I encounter my daily work as a Hospice Chaplain, is that I am an ambassador of life as I sit bedside to someone leaving this life. I have a responsibility to invest in this medicine and to get to know it and spend time with it….in other words, it is worth knowing myself, to know what brings me Quality of life, and to invest time and energy into me. Not is an egocentric way, but in a way that gives me grounding as I encounter very difficult situations. I can tell you; my job gets much harder when I have not spent time investing in this medicine! For those of you who hung out with me in Oxford, you know it’s dancing that is my investment into myself.

In Francis Fukuyama’s book Identity: The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment, the author explores the rise of Identity politics and our contemporary cultures shift from tribal and community understanding to individualistic ways of understanding. Fukuyama attempts to help us understand our political reality and how it came to be. He states “While economic inequalities of the last fifty or so years of globalization are a major factor explaining contemporary politics, economic grievances become much more acute when they are attached to feelings of indignity and disrespect.” In a time of extreme individualization, it is not wonder our politics have been twisted into this identity. When encountering other cultures and ethnicities, individuation is very different then the western mindset.

As we face all we have encountered these last few years with Black Lives Matter, Me Too, Pandemic, endemic, wars….etc, we are faced with trying to understand human dignity, who has it, who gives it, why do some never wrestle with it and others never find it? This understanding of the “concept of identity is a modern phenomenon” , This idea that “each of us has an inner self that is worthy of respect, and that the surrounding society may be wrong in not recognizing it.” Beverly E. Mitchell wrote an article for the American Baptist Historical Society, called “Human Dignity as a Theo-Political Reality”, where she attempted to define human dignity. She introduces the concept of “defacement”. Dignity is hard to grab onto as a concept when we don’t have to put a face to the situation. Beverly asks during all her lectures to keep the face of those she is talking about in mind, as a way to reject defacement. In the Bible we are told that we men and women (ALL HUMANS) are made in the image of God, Imago Dei. We as Christians believe this, even if some of us have to weave through gender language to recognize that God is not a He, God is God, God is she, God is you, God is me. We are all made in his Image. Wouldn’t our world change if we all were able to give dignity to the other by this simple truth? Not we are made in the image of God, but… or in spite of… what if we were truly able to suspend judgement, to give dignity to the others we encountered by just looking at their face and believing wholeheartedly and say to them “you are made in the image of God and it’s beautiful”.

Day after day, year after year, century after century we continue to deny the dignity of others. Mitchell calls this “The sin of defacement is the assault on the dignity of another. To deface someone or a group is to deny them the respect and honor due to them by virtue of their full humanity. It is to fail to see their sacredness.” What are we to do? Or as Fukuyama states in his last chapter, “What is to be done?” He states “We will not escape from thinking about ourselves and our society in identity terms. But we need to remember that the identities dwelling deep inside us are neither fixed nor necessarily given to us by our accidents of birth. Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate.” In other words, “We are the medicine!”

[1] Kearney, Michael. Lecture “We are the Medicine” given to Anam Cara apprenticeship in Bend, OR, 2015.

[1] Fukuyama, Francis. Identity: The demand for dignity  and the politics of resentment. (New York, Picador, 2018) 10-11

[1]  Fukuyama, 24

[1] Ibid, 24

[1] Mitchell, Beverly E. Human Dignity as a Theo-Political Reality”, American Baptist Quarterly 27, no. 2 (June 2008) 108.

[1] Fukuyama, 163

[1] Ibid, 183.

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

9 responses to “We are the Medicine”

  1. Kally Elliott says:

    I love the idea of keeping a face in the forefront of your mind as we talk about identity politics. That is helpful – especially if we can picture someone we already know and love. It’s really hard to dislike, or hate, or keep out someone you already know and love even when they are part of a different identity group.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Thanks Kally, I think it all does come down to imago dei! We are ALL made in the image of God!! I wonder if we can really accept that sometimes because we have our understanding of God that maybe it’s easier to marginalize when we don’t thinks it’s our God they worship? My experience is that we don’t always know how God is working in all of us! God is all powerful and I believe the Holy Spirit is is already working and our job is to jump in where it is already moving! So long answer is looking into the eyes of the other! Instead of walking by a house less person and pretending they are not there, I always look them in the eye and smile and communicate whether by words or just by the look “I see you!” I see your humanity, I see God!

  2. mm John Fehlen says:

    I’m really struck by the juxtaposition of dignity and defacement that you drew out. Thank you. That gives me a lot to muse on.

    How often do we, scratch that, how often to I, not “put a face” to human suffering: homelessness, transgenderism, political affiliation, and the like. We so easily demonize ‘the other’ – those that don’t look like us, vote the same, etc. into a category of ‘the other’ – it only serves to deface them.

    I personally want to strive to be better at this – thanks for spurring me on with your post Jana.

  3. Hey Jana, it’s great hearing your voice and feeling your heart as you write your words. Your authenticity is contagious. In regard to human dignity you wrote, “why do some never wrestle with it and others never find it?” I have thought about these questions but have not wrestled with them yet. As I wrestle with them now, how would you answer those questions and why do you think some NEVER find it?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Thank you Todd. Short and long answer is fear! Transformation occurs after a threshold experience. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and it leaves me changed! I think most of us like to live in comfort and surety! We have to go back and journey with those who are going through the threshold we went through! Speaking into those hands and painful s spaces and being vulnerable with our own brokenness seems to be the best way…the only way?

  4. Adam Harris says:

    Of course dancing is your thing! Several of us got to see that in action! Dancing is such a great way to get out of our head, connect with others, and destress. Every culture seems to do it. For years I felt to dignified and embarrassed then I just said, “whatever!” One of the things I love about Parker Palmer, is he says we spend the first half of our lives putting masks on and the last half taking them off. My Mom said I danced all the time as a kid, then I just stopped. Now I’ve found that part of myself again!

    Love your ideas around being made in the image of God and seeing people through that lens. It reminds me of the passage where Jesus said “When you did it to the least of these you did it to me”. Interesting right? That would mean Christ was in these people somehow. Like your post, imagine if we all operated from that place more.

    Do you personally do anything that helps you keep this in mind as you interact with folks throughout your day?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Hi Adam, I knew you would connect to my dance spirituality!! I mentioned in response above but honestly my practice is to make eye contact! I found myself often living in Chicago and in Portland I began to shut my heart off and pretend to not see the house less or the one suffering a psychotic break, or the one who looks differently then me! Now dear rules all of us but I don’t want to live in fear so making eye contact communicates “I see you!” “I see God’”. It’s a namaste moment!

  5. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Jana! I like your post very much.

    The notion that we ourselves are the remedy truly sparked my self-awareness. This concept serves as a powerful reminder. That the root cause of the element of practicing identity politics is human itself. Your suggestion of aligning this concept with the image of the Imago Dei within individuals is a thought-provoking perspective that I would like to explore further.
    I’m curious to hear your opinion, could you explain further what effective strategies individuals regardless of their profession (medical doctors, clergy, educators, etc.) can employ to genuinely steer clear of engaging in identity politics to nurture relationships with others?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Thank you Dinka! We are the medicine is a hard one and I believe what is at the core of my NPO is a costly one! When we show up to someone in pain we take on that pain too! It is impossible not too! I think to survive the work we all do without burning out we start to shut off part of ourselves to protect our hearts! Finding ways to utilize our own humanity to be present with others is crucial in the work we all sit with the best and worst sides of humanity and yet we have to also stay engaged for the long haul! I think this is the question of Leadership…being a fully human presence with others! Dinka May you be blessed with peace and longevity and opportunity for filling you up with medicine from partnership of others who love us!

Leave a Reply