We've all heard the saying that "Time heals all wounds" at one point or another—usually when we're hurting and are aching to find healing—but is that really true?
Can we really just sit back and wait for time to do its work and expect all our wounds to heal?
Let's consider what the art of kintsugi might have to tell us about this claim.
I've written before about how much time a traditional kintsugi repair requires. The traditional urushi lacquer used in these repairs cures very, very slowly and only in proper conditions.
Each application of the lacquer to a repair can take a month or more to dry enough for the next application to be added. Time is a very important component of the process that can't be skipped and can't be hurried.
Despite that, time is not the only component involved.
I have a heavily landscaped yard that uses a fair amount of stone in various ways. Over time, some of those stones naturally break from wear or from the impacts of weather.
I can assure you that not a single one of those stones has even begun to heal no matter how much time has passed. In fact, the passage of time only gives the wind and rain and other natural processes that much more time to wear away at the newly formed broken edges.
Those jagged edges do slowly soften in time, but that's not healing. That's just further wearing away of the stone in natural processes that aim toward creating sand from stone, which is more properly defined as more wounding rather than healing.
No amount of time will ever restore these stones to wholeness in any fashion.
The stones I break and work with in my art work are restored to wholeness, but not (obviously) from time alone. I clean the broken edges of the stone, add repair material (often in multiple applications), clean the rough edges of the repairs, and so on to create the repair.
Although the modern materials I use in my kintsugi repairs of stones cure much more quickly than the traditional urushi lacquer, they still take time. Time is still an important component that can't be rushed, but without the rest of the work I do on the repair, time alone is useless.
We see the same thing even with our bodies. It takes time for broken bones to mend. We can't speed that up, but we also don't count on time alone to heal us properly.
We re-set the broken bone into correct alignment and brace it in place for the healing to happen properly with casts or splints or metal plates or bolts or whatever is necessary. We hold it immobilized long enough for the bone to re-knit itself together and then we put ourselves through physical therapy to regain movement and strength.
Time is critical to the process, but it's not all that is required.
Somehow, though, when it comes to grief and other emotional wounds, we expect life to suspend the natural course of things we see elsewhere and think that time alone can heal without requiring anything else from us.
It doesn't work that way with broken hearts any more than it does with broken bones or broken stones.
Yes, time may give us enough distance from the loss or trauma to soften the jagged edges in some cases, but that's no different from nature wearing away the jagged edges of broken stones. It's not healing. (And it doesn't even help with the pain in all cases.)
Time is absolutely an important component of healing that can't be rushed or hurried, but it's only one part of the process.
Healing still requires us to process our loss or trauma. There's still work for us to do—whether alone or with others—to deal with the impact of our wounds on us to clean them out, keep them from getting infected, shift our beliefs and thinking and stories where we need to, and remove any necrotic parts or splinters of shrapnel embedded in us.
Healing of any kind does take time (usually more time than any of us would like). It always has. It always will. We need to expect that. We just can't expect time to do it all.
It's more accurate to say that "Time is needed for our work toward healing to take effect on all wounds."
How has time played a role in healing in your life?
In places where you have healed, what work did you do that time used to move you toward healing?
In places that are still wounded, what work are you doing (or need to do) to give time something to work with?
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