A few weeks ago, my wife and I had some friends over for dinner. We enjoyed good wine, I made Old Fashioned’s, everyone ate too many appetizers, and we overindulged on tacos. The evening was a time to reconnect with good friends, and while our kids played upstairs, the four of us sat on the back patio as we shared laughs and stories.
While his wife shook her head, my friend told the story behind a white patch of scar tissue on his knee. He shot an elk, field dressed the animal, and in the process, he accidentally drove his knife inches deep into his leg. He gave us a good look at the scar and laughed at his carelessness.
My turned to me and said, “Tell them about your scar.”
“Which one?” I asked, but I knew.
Ten years ago, my brother and I went camping with some friends. Five guys in the woods—what could go wrong. One of the guys we went with had brought a brand new, razor-sharp ax. When we arrived at our campsite (for the purists out there, yes, we were car camping), we unloaded tents, stoves, sleeping bags, and the brand new ax.
I volunteered to chop wood, so I took the ax and found some logs that needed to be hacked into smaller pieces. Once I had completed the task at hand, I decided to prepare some kindling by shaving an old dried out stump.
This is something I had done dozens of times. Take an ax and swing it in a way that you strike the outermost inch or two of a stump. The result is a pile of nice chunks of bark and dried wood.
I swung with strength and speed, and my pile of kindling grew. About five minutes in, I took a more significant swing than necessary, but rather than striking wood, a loud metallic ring echoed as the ax hit a wood-splitting wedge someone had left in the stump. The ricocheting ax traveled back toward me, and the point of the ax blade stuck about two inches into my right calf.
We had been planning this trip for months, and I wasn’t about to ruin it with a trip to the ER. The first aid kit we had was lacking anything to wash the wound, but we did have a bottle of hand sanitizer. And while no dressing in that kit was going to stop the bleeding, a couple of socks tied together made a great tourniquet. While extremely painful (both the ax puncture and the hand sanitizer) and crude (the tourniquet), we were able to enjoy all sorts of shenanigans. The bleeding eventually stopped, and the pain was bearable.
I have told this story many times over, and every time is a reminder that our scars are proof of the moments that define us—the scars on our hands, arms, legs, and faces have come from a host of stories. Some we are proud of while others offer others a good laugh, but all have left a mark. But what about the stories behind the marks that are invisible to the eye, yet very real?
There is another kind of scar, one that is deeper, yet impossible to see. The stories behind the scars on our hearts and souls are just as important. They have shaped us; they have molded our minds and helped define our histories. Our heartbreaks, traumas, addictions, shameful moments; they all leave scars.
While often more challenging to tell than stories about mishaps in the woods, the stories behind the scars on hearts and souls need to be shared, they are stories worth telling.
These are the stories where we can learn the most from one another, but only if we are willing to tell them.
I have started to view my scars as gifts I can give to others—the hard parts of life are meant to be shared. Because of my scars, I am reminded of the wisdom I can offer my children, helping them avoid making the same mistakes I have made. But, more importantly, when others offer me the stories behind their scars, I look for the ways their lives can richen mine. How can my life be made better because of the experience they have to offer?
You have scars that are proof of the life you have lived.
What scars do you carry?
What stories do they represent?
Who is waiting for you to share your journey with them so they can avoid the same scars?