Kintsugi is a Japanese art form, tradition, and philosophy which finds repaired objects more beautiful than the original. Kintsugi happens to be a beautiful description of what it means to be human. We are broken vessels in need of repair.
I asked my wife the other day if we own fine china. What even is fine china? Could I really tell the difference between china created for peasants or china created for royalty? My wife patiently explained, as she usually does, we do have china, it's just at her mom's house. She couldn't, however, answer my other question, why is it called china?
We all have our scars, don’t we? Some are physical, tangible, reminders of pain. Most are invisible wounds that healed with a mangled mixture of efficacy. I have these stretch marks on my stomach and arms. Stretch marks typically happen when the skin is rapidly stretched. The marks are scars from the torn dermis. They are these hideous reminders of my past. The rapid weight gain from the most painful period of life left parts of my body scarred. In my case, I can see tangible reminders of a life which I used food to self-medicate through divorce, abuse, and depression. We all have our scars. We carry them around and we try to minimize their visibility. I want to reframe that. Our scars have the potential to be something incredible. Restoration and healing becomes the gilded glue that transforms our wounds and scars from the hidden to the magnificent. We can use our healed wounds to connect with others, to lead, and to develop incredible empathy. Our scars have the ability to help healing in others, if we let them.
Here’s how this works: be authentic, be honest, and be wise.
Authenticity is so important. Yet, it’s hard to be authentic. We are bombarded with images of all the amazing things everyone else is doing. We want to post images, posts, and heck even this article, that paints us in the best possible light. Our digital selves are not always accurate representations of life’s gritty realism. The struggle to pay bills, the frustrations of a job you hate, the constant longing for a relationship, all point to the reality of life. In the midst of all this, how can you be authentic about your day to day?
Honesty stems from authenticity. Once we remove the facades, once we are authentic, we need action. Honesty is that action. We need to be honest with ourselves first. Are we in touch with our struggles, our wounds? Or have we buried them with self-medicating? Once we are authentic and honest with ourselves, we can be honest with others around us. Sharing becomes a liberating force; we are not alone.
Authenticity and honesty requires wisdom. Not everyone is a safe person to share your wounds, past or present. Not everyone is worthy of knowing our stories. We need wisdom to know when and with whom to share. Indiscriminately blasting twitter, facebook, instagram, or linkedin (kidding, who uses linkedin) with your struggles doesn’t produce authenticity anymore than sharing pictures of other’s fancy dinners you found from google would. Be real, be open, but be wise with who receives your story.
I’m a huge fan of counseling. I believe it’s for everyone: not just those dealing with trauma or pressing issues. During a season of counseling a few years ago, I had this repeating image of a vast field with rusted metal. It was dry, barren, and lifeless. It was an image which reflected my inner state.
Through counseling, and the subsequent healing, a major shift happened with that image. I visualized grass, trees, and life growing. The rattling words in my head were “Grass can grow there.”
It was a sign that I was healing and moving past the wounds.
It is powerful to see areas of dead land come back to life after a drought or fire. It is even more powerful to see a person come alive after healing begins.
Grass can grow there: yes, there, that place deep inside where you thought nothing good would happen.
Life can grow there.
Restoration takes work. It’s brutal at times. It feels like a breaking and re-breaking all over again. But it’s worth it. Like the painstaking task of repairing a broken vase, repairing your wounds takes work, patience, and grace. So many fail to put that work in, however. They never experience healing, only a quick stitch of the soul as they limp through life. I want us to experience profound healing. With that experience, I want us to be a people who yearn for that healing in others; and so on and so on.
Our wounds, if we let them, have the power to transform us into something beautiful. All of our faults, failures, and pain have the power to shape us into people who have deep empathy for others.
Through healing and transformation, we become a stunning whole vessel of life, and beauty, and meaning. Our scars reflect light, rather than absorb it.
We become a living kintsugi.