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Do Your Emotional Scars Make You Stronger?

By February 22, 2019January 27th, 20232 Comments

Every morning my ritual involves applying oil and massaging the most recent surgical scars. Why?To soften the scar tissue, increase circulation to further heal the surgical site, stretch the injured skin to alleviate the tension, and hopefully to lessen the ugly, purple stripe across my leg. Along with this ritual comes gratitude. The scar reminds me that the intense pain from a congenital issue no longer attacks. This discomfort won’t last much longer. And it is not PAIN.

But the scar remains.

There are many kinds of scars—emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, internal, external.

If you are human, you have scars.

Erin Wood asks in an article in Psychology Today, “So what about our scars really makes us stronger? Are the scars supposed to be physical reminders that we have mustered the strength to get through tough times?”

A great question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Some physical scars continue to ache for years.

But what about emotional scars? The ones no one sees.

The ones you fight to hide. You shutter your eyes so others can’t look in and potentially see the pain hiding, the tears threatening to fall, or the anger you fight to control. What about those?

Can beauty result?

Elisa Morgan in her book, Hello Beauty Full, states, “Scars tell stories of pain—and redemption. Our brokenness provides a pedestal for the display of God’s beauty.” I want to believe this.

Scars that remain hidden, buried deeply within your soul, continue to fester like an infected cut.

These wounds seep poison into your mind, emotions, and body. The more you push down the pain and refuse to confront it, the worse the wound becomes.

I know. I lived this way for too many years. My deeply held belief that revealing the wound would rip open the emotional scar and I’d never heal only caused further damage.

“God was serious about dealing with the secret hidden pain I’d harbored all these years. I cowered in the shadows, collapsing on the cold, murky surface. Crumpling against the familiar prison walls.

I was ashamed.

My heart, mind, emotions, and belief system were ripped open. The putrid sickness spilled out. There was no covering up this infection. No pretending. No hope of repairing the mask. I was exposed as the fraud I was.

The time to deal with me had arrived.

I was very sick.”

Excerpted from Choosing a Way Out: When the Bottom Isn’t the Bottom

Steve Maraboli proposes, “My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded.”

Would you agree with that statement?

While physical scars are visible and may cause others to stare, I wonder if they are easier to heal.

Physical scars show that our body did it’s miraculous job to heal itself.

Do emotional scars cause more damage?

I would argue emotional scars are easier to ignore. We become adept at pushing down the pain and telling others we are fine. Since we say it so often, we begin to believe the story ourselves perpetuating the lie.

But if emotional scars are to become beauty marks, what has to happen?

  • Stop lying.

When I underwent counseling for suicidal depression, my counselor told me to change my vocabulary. The counselor removed the word “fine.” The reason? I wasn’t fine, but I used the word to hide my true emotions. Being forced to admit my true emotional state was terrifying and confusing. In order to stop lying, I had to face the hidden pain, broken expectations, anger, and resulting resentments. Not an easy process at all, and one that I continue to work through each day. Every time I catch myself using the word “fine” as a quick response to someone, I remember the lie increases any wound or false impression I wish to promote.

  • Seek healing. 

You will need help. Facing the wounds involves a level of integrity you may not have. The first step I took was to tell a trusted friend. That friend pointed me to other resources while agreeing to walk the road with me. Healing is a twisted, quirky journey. You will take many steps that feel useless. But each step forward brings you closer to true health. And as you move, the scar changes from purplish red throbbing rawness into smoother, more pliable flesh.

  • Tell the truth.

First to yourself. You have a wound. Admit it. Until you take the first step to tell another person, you cannot tell yourself the truth. Why? You’ve run from the truth for so long, you believe that opening up will destroy you. Those first tentative, fear-filled steps away from that lie are the most courageous ones you take. Now it’s time to stretch the scar toward beauty by exchanging the lying, self-protective habit for truth-filled freedom.

Romans 5 tells us we are made right in God’s sight because of Jesus Christ. Therefore, everything we experience develops our character, endurance, faith, hope, and confidence.

Your wounds tell you that you are alone. That’s a lie. The pain from your past or present doesn’t need to infect the future.

Scars become beauty marks when you allow the Holy Spirit to clean, cauterize, and create new flesh where there was dirt, disease, and death. He does the work; you live free.

People notice our scars.

Those scars tell a story if we let them.

Your emotional scars aren’t there to punish you.

If you do the hard work to allow them to heal well, your scars provide encouragement to others. They show the grace you’ve been given for today.

Jesus’ scars, which He could have completely removed, witness the greatest healing you can experience—salvation.

He chooses to show His scars to remind you and me that He knows our pain, He bore our sin, and He provides our complete healing. If like Thomas, whose devastating grief over Jesus’ crucifixion created his disbelief that Jesus was alive, you need to see those wounds, ask Jesus. He will meet your need and prove His healing in your life.

Your scars are beautiful.

They show you’ve survived and grown. You are genuine. You are human. You are someone I can relate to.

Refuse to believe that you need to hide your scar.

Share it with someone today. If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.