All of us carry around scars – whether they are physical, emotional, psychological or mental – they are part and parcel of being human.  Very often we look at these scars with shame and failure.  Often we use them to beat ourselves up and it all combines to reduce how we view ourselves.  The Japanese have a tradition called ‘Kentsugi’ – meaning “joining with gold” (kin is gold and tsugi is join).  Instead of throwing away broken things like cups, plates etc in Japan, they repair them with glue mixed with gold flakes. These items become treasured items as they celebrate the bumps and trials of life and show that broken things can be repaired – and repaired with love.

For the past 12 weeks, I’ve been attending a course held in my local community in Glasgow called ‘Kentsugi Hope’.  During these 12 weeks I’ve learned to accept my scars, forgive myself and embrace my flaws (we were taught a great phrase – ‘flawsome’).  In summary, I discovered that I should embrace my various scars and instead of looking at them as shameful and reminders of times of extreme distress and trauma, I should see them as signs of strength and resilience.  These scars showed that I was able to come through the trials of life and I was repaired and made stronger.  I’ll give you a personal example from my own life.  2 years ago, I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.  After 8 weeks of chemotherapy, I had to go through a major operation (9 hours) to cut out the cancer and build a new oesophagus for me.  This operation has left me with a scar across the top of my stomach which is approximately 60 cm long and an equivalent scar on my back.  The few who have seen these scars have reacted in various ways, but the most common reactions are shock, revulsion and sympathy.  I, however, look at these scars with thankfulness and gratitude.  Without those scars I would be dead, the cancer having killed me.  Those scars remind me that there were people around me who showed me great love and support, the medical staff showed great professionalism and care to get me through the medical trials, and when I felt weak my faith and friends were at their strongest for me.  But, most of all the scars are a visual reminder that I had the strength, tenacity and courage to make it through and survive.

At the top of this blog is a picture of a ‘Kintsugi’ bowl I created at the last session of the course.  I’ve already put it to good use in something I take great joy in – repairing, upgrading and playing guitars.  Our scars are to be celebrated and recognised for what they are – our courage, strength and tenacity.  In essence, they show we are survivors – not victims.

Brian Scott for #APLEMonth2024.