Baring our wounds for ourselves and others

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

child's face peering out of the darkness

"In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others." ~Brennan Manning

This quote from Brennan Manning gets to the heart of what kintsugi living is all about. Having the courage to allow our wounds and our scars to show brings healing not just to ourselves, but it also radiates outward to bring healing to those around us.

Choosing to live this way, however, is to live in a counter-cultural way that goes against all of our early training.

Why we hide our wounds

We learn very early in life that some parts of ourselves are more acceptable to the people around us than others. Those unaccepted parts of who we are include strengths that others don't know how to deal with or feel threatened by just as often as they do our weaknesses.

In order gain acceptance and approval, we banish these parts of ourselves that are less acceptable to our shadow, where they continue to act out and influence us without our awareness or control.

We soon also learn that are wounds fall into the category of parts of ourselves that are unacceptable because so few people know how to cope with our woundedness.

As humans, being wounded is an inevitable part of living that says nothing at all about our character or value, but most of us have been convinced otherwise. Our wounds have often been mislabeled as weakness, faults, or defects by those who cannot tolerate the discomfort of our pain, and so we learn to be ashamed of them.

We either tuck them away into our shadow along with the other parts of ourselves that we have amputated or we hide them from others while suffering alone and in shame.

The cost of hiding

While hiding our wounds might initially make us seem more acceptable to others, there are costs of doing so—both for us and for those around us.

For ourselves, our wounds are slower to heal when we've buried them in our shadow or are trying to deal with them alone in hiding. The very fact that we feel compelled to hide them adds a toxic layer of shame that interferes with the healing process, leaving them oozing and festering just under the surface of our lives.

These festering wounds invariably poison our interactions with others and the world around us, even if we have shoved them so far into our shadow that we can't see them. Our pain—known or unknown—overflows to cause pain for others (and usually additional wounds to ourselves) when left untended.

At the same time, our denial of our wounds adds to the culture of shame around being wounded as we strive to pretend that they do not exist, increasing the pressure for those around us to hide their wounds as well.

The gift of showing our wounds

Choosing the counter-cultural life that refuses to hide our wounds is the radical choice to live a kintsugi life that takes responsibility to healing those wounds and allowing our scars to share the story of that healing with all around us.

When we make space for our own wounds to heal as they are brought out in the open and cleansed from shame, we also make space for those around us to do the same with their own wounds.

We not only model a new way of being, but we also learn how to be compassionately present to others' wounds as we learn to be present with our own. As we heal, our healing overflows to others around us.

We become an oasis of hope and healing while also facilitating that healing for ourselves. Brennan Manning (quoted above) is a powerful example of this dynamic.

He was a laicized Franciscan priest whose known struggles with alcoholism and his divorce after leaving the priesthood made his message of God's great grace and love all the more powerful because his wounds were unhidden. His message offered hope and comfort to so many because of the example he provided in his own woundedness and healing.

We all have the opportunity to do something similar when we allow our wounds and subsequent healing to show as an example to those around us.

Coming out of hiding

Despite all of its benefits, the choice to show our wounds is still a courageous one because it flies in the face of our cultural norms. People who are not comfortable with showing their own wounds may attack you (or disappear from your life) because your wounds intensify their own discomfort.

In the short term, this can make the choice to be vulnerable a painful one, so it is helpful (and imperative!) to start by baring our wounds only to others who are comfortable with their own wounds and scars. As we do this and our own healing increases, it becomes easier to shed the shame we've learned to feel about those wounds.

As we release that shame as false, it becomes harder for others to project their own shame onto us because we no longer buy into it. We've found the freedom in coming out of hiding and can't be forced back into it.

And in so doing, we become a safe place for others to step out of hiding as well as they respond to the hope and light our example spreads.

Questions to ponder

To what degree do you hide your wounds? What feelings arise for you as you imagine allowing others to see those wounds (past or present)?

How much shame and fear does that bring up in you? What is the source of that shame? What do you fear most?

Think of the people you know who are most comfortable to be around. How many of those people are open about their scars and their wounds? Do they share their struggles or do they hide them? How does their example affect your response to your own wounds?

Who are the safe people in your life that you could practice sharing your wounds with? Who are the people from whom it is best to keep those wounds covered and protected because they are not capable of dealing with them?

What is one step you might be willing make today to bring your wounds out of hiding for your own healing and the healing of others? Will you try it?

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