Traditionally, beauty is something flawless and unmarred. However, when it comes to writing your stories, such perfection is boring. (That’s why I avoid it at all costs!) Telling meaningful stories is a process of finding beauty in the scars and sharing it with others.
We have a natural tendency to cover our scars. Perhaps it comes from our need to protect what is precious to us. A scar on our child’s face reminds us of some harm that we failed to shield him from. A chip on the coffee mug that we got on our honeymoon serves as unwelcome reminder that we’re no longer young and unfettered. And, perhaps it’s because we’re hardwired to appreciate symmetry.
However, it’s a curious double standard. We never look at an ancient, craggy tree and think, “Wow, that’s too bad. I bet it was beautiful when it was young.” We wonder about the scars and admire the tree’s survival.
Sometimes finding beauty in the scars—or at least looking for it—is crucial to telling good stories. We want to connect with others. We don’t want them to think of our lives as objects of flawlessness that need to be put up on a shelf and admired from afar. We want loved ones to look closely. Through our memories and stories, we want to touch and be touched.
Scars contain great stories of healing, or even transcendence. Did you rise above the circumstances long enough to be a good parent or spouse? Did you fight strong temptations to give up? We you able to forgive? As you write about what you survived, include what you did right, what you regret, what you learned. Who pulled you through?
Life doesn’t have to look pretty to be beautiful.
Other cultures have traditions that epitomize finding beauty in the scars. One of my favorites is the Native American Yakama women’s tradition of a time ball. It starts as a ball of twine. Throughout their lives, women add beads to their twine to memorialize events. Some beads represent happy events; others stand for times of hurt or hardship; others stand for personal growth.
Like honest written memories, a time ball full of knots and beads isn’t considered beautiful because of its perfection, lack of flaws, or symmetry. Instead, a lumpy, knotty, wad of twine represents a fullness of life and a vibrant life journey. It doesn’t have to look pretty to be beautiful.
We can also learn from the fifteen century Japanese art of Kintsugi. This craft goes beyond finding beauty in the scars. It creates beauty by accentuating brokenness. Zo Newell explains:
With this process—said to have been invented at the behest of a fifteenth-century shogun, dismayed when a cherished piece of cracked porcelain was mended with ugly metal staples—a damaged vessel is transformed from something to be discarded into a work of art.
What cracks would you like to fill with gold in your writing? Find the beauty in the scars as you tell the stories of being tied in knots, literally and figuratively. I’d love to hear your thoughts…
 Ker Than, “Symmetrical Bodies Are More Beautiful to Humans,” National Geographic News, August 18, 2008,http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/08/080818-body-symmetry.html.
 Zo Newell, “Kintsugi as Yoga: Filling the Cracks with Gold,” The Elephant Journal, June 23, 2012, http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/kintsugi-as-yoga-filling-the-cracks-with-gold-zo-newell/.