Like most, if not all people of a certain age, life has beaten me down a time or two. A lot of the hard knocks schooling I’ve received has been accompanied by nauseating embarrassment. Some cases have resulted in deep humiliation; others merely left my ego scorched. On a few occasions the lessons have been life-changing. Most of these experiences have just been uncomfortable. From each, even when outcomes have seemed unjust or punitive, I have worked to uncover the deeper understanding associated with whatever I had to go through.
Several incidents have been purely physical. Now while I’ve never suffered the trauma of broken bones, I have subjected myself to injuries that resulted in nasty scars. Once as a bored kid, I climbed a fencepost and recklessly attempted a circus tightrope act - across a length of barbed wire. It wasn’t pretty. One day in high school, when late for marching band practice, I sliced my thigh while swinging it carelessly over the football stadium’s locked gate. (It was topped with barbed wire). Then there was the time, only a few years ago, when I performed my best Superman impression and sailed over my mountain bike handlebars during a downhill run; skinned my knee literally to the bone. No barbed wire was involved this time, thankfully.
Some physical scars carry deeper meaning. I recently was watching a tender scene in a violent movie in which two people were about to make love. As they undressed, one noticed the other had a long scar along her belly. When the man’s face changed, so did the woman’s – to one of shame and embarrassment. As it turned out, the woman had misread her prospective partner’s face; it was not one of disgust or revulsion; it was empathy.
The scene continued with the man removing his shirt to reveal his own physical scars. As she tenderly caressed the violence-engendered wounds on his chest, I was struck by how the simple act of sharing one’s ‘life wounds’ can bring people closer. Sadly, this seems to be something most folks in real life rarely, if ever engage in.
Most of us operate from a place of protective cover. That is, we tend to hide the physical, mental and emotional wounds we’ve accumulated over the course of our lifetimes. We do this in an effort to shield ourselves from possible ridicule, criticism or exploitation. I believe this practice can be, in many cases, practical and prudent. I also think that in keeping our deepest wounds bandaged in silence, we miss rare opportunities to forge meaningful connections with one another.
For most of my life I have discussed and actually shown off the physical scars I’ve suffered, doing so in a way that approaches silly macho bravado. I have done so willingly – even though in most cases I acquired the scars by acting stupidly. Yet it has only been in the last few years that I’ve also started sharing some of my mental and emotional ‘scars’. In my life experience, I have learned how beneficial it can be to share certain of my bigger mistakes, uncertainties and even insecurities with others.
In fact, some of my most meaningful encounters with human beings have been when I have revealed my life wounds and talked openly about the scars they’ve left. What I have found is that by initiating such sharing, a deeper understanding of myself and the person I’m talking to emerges. And it often opens the door to important dialogs that can really matter, which at least for me, can result in a healing effect of my soul.