We Are Not Our Scars

I met a man who had been injured in the Korean War. One of his legs had been badly damaged, and he walked with a cane, twisting his body awkwardly with every step. I asked him what it was like to be scarred for life. He told me that he was lucky. That got my attention. In fact, it was the last thing I expected him to say. The man told me that he felt lucky because his scars were on the outside. He understood what had happened to him. He had learned to live with them. “Most people’s scars,” he said, “are on the inside where nobody sees them.”

The man was right. Even the most beautiful woman or handsome man carries scars. They come with living. Things happen to us that we don’t understand. We feel guilty for something that occurred a long time ago, or we misinterpret a thoughtless comment made by someone important to us. Some of us hold secrets and are full of fear because of what might happen if society ever found out the truth we carry inside. Some scars are born of fear. Some of us have been hurt, letting down our guard with people or institutions we thought we could trust. And then there are parents who, for whatever reason, seared defining messages into our psyches. You get the idea. You know what I mean, because you have scars, too.

One of the reasons I wrote my first book, Meridian’s Shadow, was to explore what people do with their scars. The opening scene tells the story of my main character, Hunter Logan, cutting his finger in front of some boys he wanted to impress. That story happened to me. My right index finger carries the little scar, reminding me of that day.

The overarching message of my book, and this blog, is that we do not have to be the sum total of our scars. They need not define us. Some of my characters are debilitated by what they have done or what has happened to them. Others lose their way, following self-destructive paths. Still others are broken by their scars, but learn to avoid the shadows the scars can cast over their lives.

Every day I have to remind myself that I am not my scars. My parents were human, but they left marks on my life. I cannot be defined by my parents’ weaknesses. I once trusted close friends, who I later learned were using our relationship to betray me. I cannot be defined by my friends, no matter how good or bad they are. I spent a majority of my professional life serving an institution that discarded me. I cannot allow my personal worth to be determined by any institution. I struggle with diabetes, massive doses of insulin bloating my big-boned body until all I see is an old fat guy in the mirror. I cannot allow myself to be defined by my illness, or my size.

I struggle with these things. They are the sack of rocks I carry with me. However, on a good day, I know they are not who I am.

When we are young, our families tell us who we are. Later, when we leave the homes of our parents, life takes a whack at us, and we learn more lessons about ourselves. All these experiences are precursors to our truly defining moments. We are not necessarily who our family says we are. We are not a foregone conclusion of the scrapes and bruises of life, of the misinformation and projections of people we meet. Our defining moments need not be when bad things happen to us, but when we decide how we will respond to our scars.

I don’t claim to have any quick answers, but I am learning to see the boundary between what has happened to me, and the person I truly am. I wish you well, as you listen to the scars in your life, and encourage us all to listen to the inner, whispering voice that reminds us, against all odds, who we really are.

Moore later…

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