It was summer in Minnesota, the pleasant breeze mingling with the warm afternoon sun. We were always outside, my siblings and I, running, playing and putting good old imagination to work back in the days before handheld screens overtook our generation.
There must have been something I wanted hanging up on the garage wall, but when I jostled between the dangling extension cords and mechanic lights, an unexpected item slipped off its pegs and fell toward me.
My dad’s bow saw sliced open my finger.
I stood shocked for a moment before shuffling to the front porch to show my mom, brother and sister. It was nearly cut to the bone.
Scars Tell Your Story
That incision healed long ago and I can’t find any scar. I can barely remember the details of the story, and that makes me wonder how many experiences I’ve forgotten when the scars disappeared.
“It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.” – Garrison Keillor
The thing about scars is that we don’t go searching for them. They find us in moments of danger, risk and doing something new.
A significant scar means you’ve done or attempted something significant.
Maybe scars find us in our everyday routine, chopping vegetables for a garden salad or catching the edge of a door or exposed nail. Perhaps it’s the grueling weekend home makeover or backpacking trip that gave you some blisters and bruises and even cut you. Or in the darker moments, when the surgery is over but something inside you still feels unhealed, but you’re left with scars to remind you of the thing that ate away at you. Large or small, every scar tells something about us.
What Pain Reveals
When you get cut, you see what you couldn’t see before. It reveals what was already there. You see blood pour out, and you realize that the things you’ve heard about your mortality, that you’re not invincible—those things are true. You’re human, just like the rest of us.
Pain reveals identity; it shows you who you really are.
When you bleed, you might panic and frantically try to find relief, but it also shows that your body is operating correctly, that it’s circulating and taking your brain oxygen and running it through your heart.
You can’t live a pain-free life; you don’t want to anyway. It would be bland, without texture and contrast and the beauty that only comes from a dramatic story.
Scars are like tattoos, some say, except you didn’t expect to get them. The moment just happened to you and now you bear a mark on your body from it.
The pain we endure is a vital part of our story.
We learn the hardest lessons because of conflict, discomfort and pain, but those are the reasons we remember those lessons, too.
If it takes scars to remind us what we’ve been through, some of us will look pretty battered and torn before we remember what we’ve endured.
This article originally appeared on johnweirick.com. Used with permission.
is a writer in Greenville, South Carolina, and is the author of The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, from which this article is adapted. Visit thevariablelife.com to find more.