There’s something about scars. We try to hide them, hope others don’t see them. There’s all kinds of makeup on the market to hide our physical imperfections. We modify images to make them appear perfect, free of flaws. It’s as if somehow our scars have damaged us, as if we’re now less than perfect.
And then there’s the scars you can’t see on the outside, the scars we carry within. We somehow feel we need to bury them deep down where nobody can find them, keep them hidden. Then we can go on about our lives carrying on like all is well. The problem is, if wounds are not given air, properly treated and allowed to heal, they fester and cause infection.
As children, when we fall and skin our knee, we stop and cry for a while, but when it comes to caring for the wound, we just want to get up and keep playing. My toddler does not want me to clean her ouchie! Noooo. And splinters? Forget it!
Our instincts want to ignore the wound, hoping it will heal itself, that it will go away.
As adults, however, we know better. I know I have to force my child to let me clean the dirt out of her skinned knee lest it lead to infection. And that splinter. I’ll do whatever bribery I have to, usually calling upon daddy’s help to hold her down while I get it out because I know the longer it’s left alone, the worse it will get.
So it goes with invisible wounds, despite what we know, we want to follow our instincts. We want to ignore the pain, hoping it’ll go away. When we try to ignore the hurt, hoping It’ll just heal itself, the wound is left to fester – to get infected. If left alone, it can plant seeds of anger, resentment, bitterness within our hearts, making it harder to treat the infection down the road.
Pretending We’re Okay Doesn’t Make it So
Pretending we’re okay, putting up a front, does nothing but create separation – isolation between us and those around us. All it does is build walls, so that we keep the people we love away from our pain. We somehow think if we keep it hidden, it won’t affect them, won’t hurt them, in essence creating separation. Creating loneliness.
We can put on a happy face, play the part of the life of the party, but at the end of the day, when we return home, place our mask back in the jar by the door, we’re greeted by our pain, by our scars. And we’re lonelier for not having shared them with anybody.
This makes me think of an excerpt from the Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby.”
“Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
All the lonely people”
The Medicine of Honesty
Triple antibiotic ointment, I keep some in my house at all times. Medicine for ouchies. Once I am able to convince my toddler to let me clean her boo boo, I put the magical healing ointment on it and we move on about our day.
There’s medicine for the wounds of the heart as well. However, these are only available when we open ourselves up and show our wounds to those around us. When we have the courage to tell the people we love we are hurting. So long as we keep our pain hidden, there isn’t a way to heal, to turn the wounds into scars. However, there is amazing power in a hug, or an “I’m here for you.”
Here’s the catch. We can’t expect anyone to read our minds. It’s like I tell my toddlers, “Use your words, baby.” We have to have the courage to be open, honest and real about what’s going on. Let go of the fear that keeps us silent. That keeps us behind the mask. We must never be afraid to share our brokenness. That’s the first step to healing.
This is so beautifully captured in the song “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli. Here is an excerpt.
“Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest”
Solidarity is Found in Sharing our Pain
We are social beings, and in order to feel solidarity in whatever we’re dealing with, we have to talk about it first. We all need to be able to talk to someone. Openly and honestly. The thing is, even if not for you, you never know how sharing what you’re going through may help someone else dealing with the same thing who’s afraid they’re alone in their struggle.
I am blessed to have a special few someones in my life to call upon in times of need. One friend in particular comes to mind. The day after the breakup I spoke of in my Mother’s Day post I texted her. She responded right away, “I’m coming.” And she showed up to offer comfort, listen and be present in my time of need. I hope everyone has a Jenny in their life.
The Myth of Time
Whatever you’re dealing with, please, don’t keep it inside. Don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away, hoping it will heal itself. The greatest illusion about pain and heartbreak is the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” This is a falsehood. I know a woman who was hurt by a man and tried to burry the hurt. She tried to pretend it never happened – he never happened. Refused to discuss it. Seventy years later she made a bitter statement upon hearing of his death, hurting someone she loved as a result.
Time doesn’t heal wounds. Facing the wounds, cleaning them, putting ointment on them, and moving through them does. This doesn’t mean the hurt always goes away. Some hurts are too great to ever go away completely. But it’s better with someone to lean on.
Healing begins when we have the courage to face our pain and ask for help.
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