The Spirituality of Scars
If you want to know about the spiritual significance of scars, visit a battleground, a holocaust site, or any symbol of horror. I’ve been to Tuol Sleng, Culloden, and Wounded Knee. I hope to visit Auschwitz some day too. You might wonder what that has to do with spirituality. Aren’t those places of darkness?
Actually, yes. The energy at Tuol Sleng, Culloden, and Wounded Knee is oppressive. The lingering promise of horrible death wraps itself around you and threatens to choke you. It enters your pores and drowns you in unimaginable sorrow. They are wounds in the spiritual flesh of humanity.
So, why should anyone go there? To never forget. To heal. To forgive, and to stand renewed.
“The wound is the place where light enters you.” ~Rumi
We live in an age where scars are seen as ugly. We want perfection and flawlessness. However, you can’t grow if you never engage in battle. Life is not a safe adventure. Neither is growing spiritually.
Having scars used to be a way of saying, “I am an adventurer! I’ve crossed a dangerous threshold and come out the other side.” It was a badge of honor that people respected. Those who were scarred were seen as credible authorities who had something of worth to say about things. Now we respect titles, degrees, and money.
It used to be that proving your worth was a rite of passage. Now days our parents want to provide us with a “good life” by removing all our obstacles. So, we grow up weak, superficial, and untested. As adults we continue the pattern by withdrawing from things that could hurt us. Consequently, we have no way of identifying ourselves and end up feeling lost inside our own skins. We have to search outside ourselves to find ourselves.
In places like Tuol Sleng and Wounded Knee, men met the darkness and lost. The soil leaks with pain because they remain open wounds.
“I just don’t want to die without a few scars… It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.” ~ Chuck Palaniuk, Fight Club
When sit in our grief, there can be no healing. Thus we have no scars, only wounds. Isn’t it time to heal the wounds?
When something happens that wounds you, let it be a stepping stone to bravery, survivorship, strength. If it’s not, it will crush you. Let it be the moment you emerge from the chrysalis as a butterfly. You’re a survivor. Once you do that, you’ll have the beginnings of a scar.
We all love heroic tales and rites of passage stories like The Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, and The Lion King because they are satisfying. They inspire our own greatness. Don’t let that be the story of someone else’s life. Live it!
Eradicating the reminders like our battlefields and monuments, never speaking of the thing that threatened us, and denying that a thing hurt us, doesn’t make us heroes. Nor will it close the wound. Only walking through to the other side with healing will do that.
The resulting scar is not something to be ashamed of. Wear it like a badge of honor. When a Native boy goes out into the wilderness for a three or four day Vision Quest, he doesn’t limp back complaining of mosquito bites, hunger, fear, and scars. He uses that experience to know who he is and find his spiritual center. It becomes a badge of honor.
Sometimes you choose your battles. Sometimes they choose you. All you can do is decide how you want to go through. So, get scarred. Show them off. Tell your stories of how they came to be. And let them be the symbols of healing and growth that they are meant to be.