by Louise Pare-Lobinske
Scars: Are they good or bad? Most people would say “bad.” Some scars are inevitable: We all have good and bad in our lives, and every bad thing leaves a scar of some type, whether it’s small or large, visible or invisible. But not only are they inevitable, scars are necessary to define our character. In other words, who we are – how we respond to life – is determined by what life throws at us, the things that happen to us and which give us our scars.
But some will say that good fortune can define character too. Look at lottery winners, for instance: How they respond to their sudden windfall is a function of their character. But how many people can expect to win a lottery? The odds of winning the Florida Lotto, for example, are about one in 22,000,000 (http://www.webmath.com). The odds of winning the Publishers Clearing House $7,000 a week for life prize was one in 1.7 billion as of 2015 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishers_Clearing_House). It’s far more likely that bad things will happen to you. We will all lose loved ones; we will all suffer some type of misfortune. These are the kinds of things that will build character, far more than the positive things. What about a promotion? Sure, it’s possible that you could get one, and that can build character too, but the increase in money will almost certainly come with an increase in responsibilities, which is only a good thing if you can meet the challenge.
Some will say that certain aspects of character could be innate and don’t depend on outside circumstances. This may well be true, but the innate/acquired debate has been going on for thousands of years and will not be settled in 1,500 words or less. For a detailed history of that debate in the 20th and 21st centuries, please see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/innate-acquired/.
We can’t know what we’re capable of unless we’re tested. We’re not tested by the good stuff (with few exceptions, as noted above) — mainly the bad, the stuff that can leave scars. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. The writer James Buckham said:
Trials, temptations, disappointments – all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of a character, but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.
Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward some are strong at the broken places.” This is more an image of a bone break than a scar, but the idea is the same.
Some scars have value because they show that the bearer fought the good fight, whereas others merely show damage that has healed. In any case, assuming the wound does heal, we survive our injuries and carry the scars as permanent reminders. Maybe we should all be as proud of our scars as Henry V exhorted his army to be:
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”