The beautiful vulnerability of kintsugi

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Kintsugi (kintsukuroi) purple crazy lace agate stone heart pendant with gold repair on black cotton cord

I've recently gotten hooked on a couple of fiction series featuring female warriors as the protagonists. These women (and most of the supporting characters) are tough, strong, powerful, deadly warriors—both physically and magically.

As much as I'm enjoying these stories, I'm also very aware that these characters are embodiments of our culture's highest ideal. Powerful warriors with no weaknesses who are unbeatable in their field of action are what we idolize.

And, in turn, we tend to despise the weak, the vulnerable, the powerless, and the broken. They are not only the antithesis of our culture's obsession with winners, they are also reminders that we have the potential to be weak, vulnerable, broken, and powerless ourselves.

At the same time, the characters in these books have significant issues with relationships of all kinds. They are hardened, competitive fighters and have a hard time letting down their walls enough to let anyone get close to them. They spend as much time fighting with those who try to befriend them as they do with the enemies that are attacking them.

Observing these characters has had me also paying attention to my own patterns and attitudes around these things.

Our culture's defaults

I have absorbed the culture's preference for power and strength and winning, and yet I have also found that the closer I come to these things, I am often also lonelier and more isolated.

Even knowing this, I unconsciously tend to default to trying to hold myself up to this cultural standard. My inability to meet it most of the time leaves me feeling like I've failed.

On the other hand, the people I am often most comfortable around and tend to admire the most are those who are strong enough to chose to make themselves vulnerable.

They are open-hearted in their relationships with others, open in acknowledging their weaknesses and failures, and willing to let down their guard enough to allow others to get close enough to potentially hurt them.

I am repeatedly inspired by these people as I see the way that they have met life's painful challenges and have healed in the places that once were broken and bruised. Seeing their healing encourages me in my own efforts toward continued healing.

For all of my ingrained cultural preference for power and "winning," I would rather be more like these people I know who have embraced moving through the world with vulnerability.

Kintsugi's counter-cultural option

The kind of vulnerability that I am learning to admire is similar to one of my kintsugi heart pendants that openly displays its scars glittering with gold. It doesn't hide the fact that it has been broken, but instead makes the scars where it has been repaired shine with gold to become a source of beauty instead of shame.

When I look at one of these pieces, my eye settles immediately on these scars and sees nothing but added beauty in the wake of the repair. Its vulnerability in displaying those scars to obviously sparks my admiration, not scorn.

I've been living with the metaphor of kintsugi rather intensively for four years now, and I am still learning to embrace that kind of vulnerability in the way I deal with my own scars.

I want to continue growing in my ability to be vulnerable enough to allow my healed scars to show and thereby become an inspiration to others who are healing rather than giving in to my automatic reaction that still leans toward hiding my scars, pretending like I'm tough and independent and strong all the time, and trying to look like I am a winner by our culture's standards.

I'm slowly learning to let down my guard and embrace a more authentic and vulnerable path of allowing my scars to be seen for the beautiful healing that they are. This takes so much more courage and strength to live out day to day than it does to remain guarded and outwardly strong.

Embracing this kind of vulnerability is a counter-cultural option that turns the whole concept of strength on its head in beautiful ways that still take me by surprise.

Will you join me in embracing this kind of vulnerability in your own life?

Questions to ponder

As you think about the people you most admire and most enjoy spending time with, how much do they embrace vulnerability in their lives? To what degree are they willing to be open and authentic even about their scars, failures, and weaknesses?

Is there any correlation for you between the degree to which they embrace vulnerability and how much you enjoy being with them? How much (or little) does seeing other people's healed scars help encourage you in your ongoing healing?

To what degree are you comfortable or willing to be vulnerable enough to allow your own scars to show? How does this affect your relationships?

Do you have any desire to change the degree to which you embrace vulnerability in your life? If so, what is one step you could take today to move in that direction?

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