I have very visible scars on my face, the kind that are noticeable even to a passerby. They are there. I know they are there. And so does everybody else.
There is something fascinating I have learned about scars—how most people's description of them differ drastically from that of the person who is scarred (the scar-bearer). For example, if you were asked to describe my scars, your observation would center upon how they look, their color and shape, how they feel to the touch. But that's not what I would say if you asked me to describe them.
When I look at my scars, I remember their stories. And I feel every last one of them. I remember sitting up all night in a hospital bed throwing up pints of blood, my head swollen to the size of a basketball, and my face throbbing.
Fast forward. I remember the empty feeling in my stomach every time I asked a girl out and was kindly rejected. My only rationale for the rejection was that my face simply was not attractive to her.
We forget, when examining the scars of others, that there is always a story there. And to make a scar, there is always a story of brokenness. Always.
The love of scars
I'm engaged now. My fiancée, Anna, transcends all descriptors of beauty and compassion and kindness and courage. She humbles me.
When we were dating, I remember one night, while kissing, she began to affectionately embrace the left side of my face—the scarred side. Unwittingly (until she called me out, that is), I attempted to redirect her lips back onto mine. As I did, her eyes flashed, and she pulled away. "Stop!" she said. "Do you know you always do that? Every time I try to kiss your scars, you won't let me. Either you try to bring my lips back to yours or you start going on and on about how beautiful I am or how much you love me. Do you not think I see all of you? Do you not think I see your scars?"
I was stunned. I had no idea I was doing this. I had told the story of my scars to Anna. She knew all my soul's painful curvatures wrought by these marks. And yet, even so, I would not allow her to kiss them.
Why? It's obvious. Scars are not worthy of a kiss. Kisses are for what is lovely and beautiful. Kisses are the physical outpourings of the heart's delight in another. Kisses are unprovoked responses to the good. And scars are none of those things! Perhaps scars should receive the touch of a hand in compassion, but certainly not a kiss.
Subconsciously, I held the belief that Anna loved me—that is, my personality, my virtue, my character—and therefore was overlooking my scars. But my scars are me. And though I am not reduced to my scars, I certainly am not whole apart from their stories either. Anna delighted in me, her beloved one. She found me beautiful. And the "me" she found beautiful, the "me" she fell in love with, was a "me" that was only possible because of the presence of these scars and the stories they told. Thus, in a strange turn, my scars were beautiful to her.
Scars, I had thought, could be objects of pity. But an intimate source of desire and goodness? Impossible.
Any grief she experienced because of my scars was not a selfish grief. It was not her lamenting having to overlook a grotesque feature of her beloved so that she might continue to love the "good" parts of him. Rather, Anna grieved my scars because she loved me. She grieved because she knew the stories they told, and the stories that came from them—stories of shame and hurt and loneliness. She grieved my scars because my scars had caused me grief. She did not grieve for herself. She grieved with me. Solidarity.