“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived. In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive.”
I was emailed these words, from a novel by Chris Cleave called Little Bee, and was so touched by them that I instantly ordered the book and began contemplating scars and the bad press they receive.
The poignancy of these words lies in the fact that so many of us believe that our shortcomings and scars — whatever form they might take — make us weak, unattractive and unworthy. How many of us feel a sense of shame over our perceived flaws, failings and imperfections? I recently read that shame is the most strongly felt of all emotions. I don’t know if that’s true but I know it rings true to me.
Whether our scars are from broken bones, broken skin or broken hearts, we respond identically. What we do next is (attempt to) hide. Cover it all up. Whether it’s with heavy duty camouflage concealer (Estée Lauder double wear camouflage concealer has been my product of choice) on the skin or bravado and superficial conversation, we smile and keep our chin up and pretend ‘everything is fine’ when inside, we’re not. We conceal and pretend the scar has never happened, and we meet people every day whose scars both physical and emotional have been disguised as something else. What if we try to remember that everyone we meet is scarred and we remember we are anyone’s equal and no-ones superior?
Think of the most flawless person you know. I guarantee they have scars.
But embracing our totality, which includes the checklist of things we consider embarrassing or broken or difficult, is the path to a fully lived life.
Our scars build strength. Our scars cultivate courage. Our scars deepen our compassion and widen our hearts to make space to comfort others.
While I don’t know the shape or size of your scars, and you may not know mine, I do know this: you have them – because we all have them. Whatever your scars may be, know that they don’t diminish you one bit. They don’t make you worth an ounce less. They don’t make you broken. They don’t make you damaged goods. They make you real.
They make you beautiful.
So let’s all make a pact, right now, just like the book text says….
Our scars are never ugly. Our scars mean we’re alive.
Scar tissue is tissue that’s tougher than ever before. That’s why women who’ve had caesarean sections, will be in theatre longer with subsequent caesarean sections – because it can take a long time to penetrate scar tissue. It’s a complex endeavour.
The same is said for emotional scars, through emotional wounds invariably heal slower than physical ones. This toughening eventually comes and inevitably makes us stronger, yes, but it also makes us harder to know. The truth of who you are is harder to penetrate because there’s so much toughened tissue in the way. It stops us from connecting in the way we all crave to.
Next time, instead of concealing why don’t we do as the Japanese did, if the broke a bowl, instead of matching materials to conceal and hide cracks by repair, making the object look like new, the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy. Rather than disguising the breakage, kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history. Kintsugi uses lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, resulting into something more beautiful than the original.
Why don’t we wear our scars like they’re made of gold. Like we are better because of them. Because often, we are.
Heartbreak is what causes scars, but what if we reframed it so that we realise that when our hearts crack open, it can be a positive thing. It’s the hatching of a new you. It lets in light and the suffering gives you X-ray vision into other people’s suffering. Your cracked heart lets in infinite compassion that will be locked in and sealed when the scar heals over. And just like the wound, the compassion for other people in suffering is a part of you. Maybe the best part of you! And a scar is a very small price to pay for intense compassion, the most beautiful of traits.