Would you delight in a facial scar or a missing eye? Some people do. Consider war veterans whose scars merit valor. These veterans take pride in telling the tales behind the bullets. Yet, we all have wounds, whether they pierce our hearts or our bodies.
When I took a graduate teaching assistant training course, a former TA led the session. He said something like, “Never give up. You can have people say the worst things about you. You can have all your friends turn on you. You can feel so much despair that you consider quitting not just the program, but life. But, it can make you stronger?a martial artist even. It can make you more beautiful?like a model. The media might even print your side of the story. You can quit an academic program, and find success in another.” He went on and on about the benefits of never giving up. Then, he turned to me and held his gaze, as I uncomfortably looked away. He was talking about me.
But he missed the ingredient that made life not just livable, but remarkable?namely, a wise, compassionate friend. This friend taught me how to fight mentally through martial arts. He taught me to smile and show positivity in the face of adversity. And he shared his spiritual poetry?and called it “sharing a sandwich with the friend who came to school without a lunch.” He’s now my boyfriend.
Once, as my boyfriend trained me to spar martial arts, he scolded me for not trimming my toe nails. Rightly so. You see, a sharp toenail can slice the skin. We resumed sparring, and suddenly, his sharp toenail pierced my leg, drawing blood. An accident. My love-wound still shows a half-decade later. And I cherish it.
A wound can symbolize love, valor, or resilience. Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho-Cybernetics: Updated and Expanded reveals secrets behind the scar:
– A disfigured man might feel shame over his scars while a war hero feels pride.
– don’t form a scar (or a callous) when someone hurts you emotionally. In other words, don’t stop trusting or loving others.
– When we try too hard to protect ourselves from hurts, we make ourselves more vulnerable.
– don’t let your scars reduce your self-image. don’t ever view yourself as someone less likable, someone less worthy.
– Instead, a see yourself as someone liked, wanted, accepted, and able. See yourself as one with others. See yourself rich with knowledge. Accept yourself as you are. (These are the traits of self-fulfilled individuals, according to Combs (as cited in Maltz)). When we view ourselves as worthwhile, everyone gains.
– When dealing with others, act generously, accept shortcomings, work well with others, enjoy others? company.
– People with positive self-images overlook most “digs” and “cuts.” The people with lower self-esteem feel heightened sensitivity toward slights. So, try not to exaggerate the harm of threats, and try not to feel “threatened by every innocent remark” (p. 171). Let the “deeper emotional wounds ? heal faster and cleaner, with no festering sores to poison life and spoil happiness” (p. 171).
– Try relaxation exercises. When we feel relaxed, we have no room for fear or anger.
– Forgive others completely. don’t say, “I forgive but will never forget.” That just means you never forgave. Instead, forgive as if the wrong never happened.
– Forgive yourself. Never hate yourself. Never dwell on guilt. Let go of the past. Merely let past mistakes guide your future success.
– When you hurt, don’t close yourself off to others. Continue to be vulnerable. Most youthful people over 40 act “cheerful, optimistic, good-natured” (p. 183).
When I stepped on stage to claim my undergrad degree, one student knocked off my cap while another shoved me. Wearily, I mustered a good-natured smile. You see, I understood that one day my positive ways would bring peace. Similarly, your positive ways will do the same.
So, let the masters teach us how to graciously heal our scars.