I have just finished reading the book The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. It was a very good book but also very difficult for me to read. She shares her story about being raised by two very dysfunctional parents. Her father was an alcoholic (known as the “town drunk”), and her mother was clearly mentally ill. So many things that her mother said to her came right out of the script of my own life, especially the comments about her mother needing to think about herself for once when that was all she ever did. Yes, I know that phrase all too well.
The most beautiful part of the book to me was a comment that Ms. Walls’ husband said when he first saw her physical scars. When the author was only three years old, she suffered severe burns when her outfit caught on fire as she was boiling her own hot dogs on a gas stove. (Her mother was always “too busy” to feed the children, even though she rarely held down a job.) She was hospitalized for several weeks and could have died from the injuries. She was left with burns along her side.
At the end of the book, the author writes the following about her husband’s reaction the first time she showed him her scars:
And when I first showed him my scar, he said it was interesting. He used the word “textured.” He said “smooth” was boring but “textured” was interesting, and the scar meant that I was stronger than whatever it was that had tried to hurt me. – Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle: A Memoir
I cry every time I read that passage because this is so true about our emotional scars. Our scars are what add “texture” to our lives. They show that someone tried to hurt us, and they are evidence that we were stronger than the one who hurt us. While my emotional scars do not define me, they definitely shaped the person that I am today.
Someone told me about an interesting view of scars. I think this was said at a Promise Keepers convention, but I could be wrong. The speaker held up his hand and showed where a grenade had blown up in his hand. He said that scars have value for three reasons: (1) They show that you were wounded; (2) They prove that you survived; and (3) They earn you the right to say, “I have been where you are.”
I no longer hide my emotional scars. My refusal to pretend that I have no emotional scars might make some people uncomfortable, but most seem to appreciate this. I earned those scars, and I am not going to cover them up. Instead, I am going to use them to help as many people as I can.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt