Ugly? Scary? Maybe. But allow me to propose…. beautiful.
Let’s talk scars. Everything I say here can be applied to emotional scars too. I have a scar that can’t be missed. It goes from just below my right ear to where my neck meets my shoulder. Actually the scar takes a 90-degree turn there, and continues across my entire throat and was held together by 98 stitches at one time.
We were treated to a lovely evening out recently and I was asked about my scar. Actually, I get asked about my scar a lot. Whenever I start a new job, I can hear the whispering and I can feel the stares burning into my neck. It doesn’t bother me. In the past, I’d typically deflect the questions with the answer “It’s a long story” and kind of leave the person hanging. I’d even revel a bit in the dangling questions that were left, and the deepening mystery around my scar. I could tell it drove people crazy.
But I’ve changed my approach. I’ve realized that I had no good reason to keep the story of my scar hidden away. On the contrary, I have plenty of story to tell. And now, when I look at myself in the mirror every morning and see what some might consider a disfigurement on my neck, I am reminded only that I have so much to be grateful for.
So when I was asked about it, my wife and I told my whole story and it got us talking about scars in general. Which got me thinking. Which is why I’m here, writing this. Yep, this is me, sporting my trophy.
Scars are often seen as something negative. They are a reflection of pain, a wound, trauma, sadness. They are what remains of these things, and will forever remind us of what was suffered. They are horrible mementos, aggregating everything bad in recent and long-past memory into one ugly stripe. They make us sad. They make us angry. They bring about fear of the known and the unknown. When you think about it, scars are powerful and practically have lives of their own. But these marks, these flaws, these blemishes – they can do so much for us – if we would only let them.
Instead, they often cause us to judge people, to make assumptions and inferences. They can cause us to turn to our emotions. They can cause us to turn away from people, or conversely to turn to people.
I, for one, believe scars have a beauty that far outweighs their ugliness. And yes, scars can be inside of us too. I feel that scars on our skin, as well as scars on our hearts or souls, have a measure of power and potential that we should let them realize. I feel we shouldn’t categorically dismiss scars as ugliness, and even if we sympathize with their bearers. I don’t think we should consider scars as nasty things that we’d be better off without.
To me, scars are proof. Proof of so much more than we would be able to see without them. When I come across someone whose skin is scarred, or whose soul is clearly bearing scars of the past, I try to see these scars as signs of strength. I see them as absolute proof of resilience. And I see them as a sign of grace – somewhere, at some point in time, the bearer of that scar was shown some grace by someone, or something, and is here to tell the story.
I have more scars. My hands and knuckles are littered with scars, harking back to lessons I learned. I used to love to fight. I’d go out of my way to cause fights, and to get into them. I can’t explain it, and I’m certain that I had more wiring loose than tight in those days. Yet I learned a lot about myself and I can still look down at my battered hands, shake my head and see my being here as a measure of grace that I don’t deserve. I can then choose to be ashamed at who I was, dwell painfully on regrets upon regrets, or I can choose to look up, see the world around me and consider those scars a reminder of how far I’ve come since then.
Grief leaves some big scars behind too. I’ve been through my share of grief, having lost my dad and my brother in the same summer. Though it’s nothing to be considered extraordinary (for there are many who have lost much more than I have), it has had a big impact on me, and I bear scars from these losses. My whole family does. Even my kids do, because they talk about never having met their real Opa and one of their uncles. These scars never truly heal, because a real piece of us is ripped away and can not be replaced. Again, it is up to the person who bear these scars, and how they will choose to look at the scars inside of them.
I don’t actually feel that there are good scars. I just feel that scars can be seen in a positive light, and under that light, we can see wonderful things that can come out of the scars and the events that caused them.
There are scars that are more complex and darker, and difficult to see in any positive way. I feel that, when we look around ourselves, humanity is scarred with an indifference. This scar that is an air of apathy about our neighbours and fellow passengers on this planet is a result of constant friction. It’s not a deep cut, like some scars, but more like a carpet burn. It’s this repeated “looking the other way”, and lessening of the bonds and shared burdens between us and strangers, that have led to this scar. And it’s not easy to see it positively. But it is a great opportunity to do things differently.
I’ve spoken to people that bear what seems like a million scars – on their person, and on their souls. Unfortunately, there are those who choose to spend their years tracking who has caused their scars and keeping a careful, vengeful record of it, instead of seeing any of the potential good in them.
Sure, we can try to eradicate our scars. We can get laser therapy to try to rid ourselves of the scar tissue. We can try a number of methods to erase the scar – physically or emotionally – but in the end, we’re never really getting rid of the scars themselves. So let’s try to look at our scars for what good they might do. What use are these scars? Those of others can teach us lessons, and those of ours can be reminders.
In the end, it is my opinion that there is something beautiful in all of our scars. A scar means that what has caused the hurt is over. It means the wound has now closed and, at some level, has healed. If nothing else, the healing process has begun. It is a sign that we are alive, that we’ve been given another chance, and that we have survived the hurt, the lesson or the test.
What bigger measure of grace can we ask for? Am I crazy in saying that our scars are beautiful?
If you’ve enjoyed this, feel free to browse my archives tab for other posts.