We humans cannot help being prideful creatures. When I have been wounded, either sleight or deep, my instincts push me to a private place. Solitude always feels right for coming to grips with an assault. Healing is another matter altogether. Especially when the skin has closed over but the offense continues to fester. That’s when exorcism seems like a pretty good idea. Managing our demons takes on many forms.
There is honor and endurance in choosing to heal and let go of that which has wounded you. However, there are occasions when a scar is so reviled that it must take on another persona altogether. I know a young woman who once was a cutter. But as she matured she concealed these physical scars with tattoos that depicted uplifting imagery. As a result, her emotional scars began to heal as well. Now when she looks at her wrists, there is no hostile reminder but rather inspiration, and that has made all the difference in her growth.
Not every tattoo has to be a traumatic touchstone. Some are well thought out and others added on impulse. It can simply be for aesthetic appeal. Or a tattoo can be the artful manifestation of a wound — the celebration of a battle survived, an offense overcome, an enemy endured. Whether the physical fight is won or not, there remains this symbol of dignity for having the belligerent gall to survive it.
A metal worker has confidence that a weld is the strongest metal on a machine. By the same token, it is equally true that scar tissue is the toughest skin on our body. Any truly resilient spirit commands a durability that surpasses pain.
Bullets, blades and automobiles do not create scars. The true authors of our deepest disfigurements are betrayals, bullies, and broken promises. And despite its origins, a scar can be a friend whose very presence is a cautionary reminder — “Don’t go this way again. Find another.”
Scars are proof positive that the past was not imagined, whether they began with the unceremonious tearing of flesh or a deeply affecting trauma that has burned itself into your skin with ink. There is something liberating in looking at a scar and have it almost say to you, “See, we got through this, didn’t we?”
For many people it takes a very, very long time before self-worth and value may deem to make their first blessed appearance. But the moment they do — the very instant a person sees himself or herself honestly — it’s love at first sight. For those who are healthy, a scar is simply a tattoo with more interesting tales to tell.
When I study a scar long enough, I see more than evidence of a wound — I recognize proof that healing is possible. If, and hopefully when, I stand before my maker, he will not look me over for virtues. He will examine me for scars and for evidence that I rose above them.