Wounds and Scars

One of the most important aspects of overcoming tragedy, trauma, or personal betrayal is to understand the distinction between a wound and a scar. Wounds are created at the moment of “impact,” so to speak. When the painful or tragic event takes place, the heart is wounded and feels as though it’s been broken into countless pieces. At that moment, you may truly feel incapacitated depending on the severity of the impact. Everything stops, and a personal triage takes place. The mind sometimes begins to protect itself by putting the body into shock. Emotions may try to take over the role of the prefrontal cortex in the brain where decisions are made, so instead of rational thought, feelings of denial, anger, or outrage begin to dominate.

In the case of physical trauma, “wound care” is the primary focus in the early stages, and expectations on the human body are limited to the visible and obvious results of the injury.

When the injury is in the realm of the unseen, however, and the mind and emotions are affected—when a heart may be broken, even though the person looks “normal” on the outside—this is where the way we deal with our own healing and that of others who are hurting could be handled better. A person whose mind or emotions have been wounded needs the same understanding as one physically wounded during the early stages. To expect someone to begin to function fully within a predetermined time of our own choosing is both insensitive and unfair. Both grief and trauma recovery may share similarities in all types of people: denial, anger, despair, etc., but when the stages of grief occur and begin to transition, how long they go on cannot (and should not) be determined by charts and graphs. Everyone is different, although they may experience the common elements of trauma and tragedy recovery. It’s equally important to recognize that progress is essential if one is to begin Dancing with the Scars, and if one stage of the grief process seems to have “taken over” one’s mind or emotions, then steps must be taken for the individual to begin moving onto the other phases of grief. (Please note: there is no concrete timeline for this.)

Understanding the physical difference between wounds and scars of the body reminds us that as time passes, a wound no longer demands the same level of attention that it once required, and eventually, a scar begins to form. The scar, in its initial stages of development, will be very tender, and if it’s bumped or touched it will cause pain. So, too, is it true of the mental and emotional scars that we encounter in life. A scar may not require the same treatment and attention as a wound, once it begins to form, but it serves as a reminder of a past injury, and it may still remain sensitive when “bumped” or “touched.”

Oftentimes, just when we feel that we’re progressing, someone or something bumps up against the newly formed scar, and it hurts. It’s much like when we smash a finger or toe—it seems like everything you do jars the painful area no matter how you try to protect it. Sometimes this happens with words: someone innocently says something that bumps your tender scar; another person may tell a story that’s so closely related to your own that it brings up a flood of painful emotions, of which you were just gaining the upper hand and from which you were beginning to think that you might be able to move forward. If we examine the physical wound-scar relationship, we can understand how applicable it is as related to the unseen hurts and pains of life as well. Life’s wounds will eventually scar over, but there will always be a reminder of the event in the form of memories and heartache. And just like a scar on your body, although it may fade over time, it will probably never completely disappear.

If a person has experienced tragedy, trauma, abandonment, or betrayal, it’s likely that they find themselves in uncharted waters and aren’t sure what to expect or do. I can’t count the times over the years where someone who has experienced something traumatic has apologized to me because they didn’t know what to do! The first thing we must understand, whether we ourselves are experiencing the trial, or whether we’re helping someone else through theirs, is this:

There is no “right way” to grieve, nor is there a timetable that can be referred to that determines what happens when.

The second thing to realize is whether you’re dealing with a wound or a scar. The two have completely different approaches.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those weep.

— ROMANS 12:15 (NKJV) 

Too often, many expect a person to return to “rejoicing” even though they have been wounded when the appropriate thing to do is to weep with them. They are likely thinking, am I ever going to get through this? while those near to them may be wondering the same thing. It’s during those times that one often says words that appear to the recipient to be uncaring and hurtful. According to our way of thinking, the wounded ones are expected to have “scarred over” by now and should have returned to full function, when in reality, what is needful is continued wound care, weeping, compassion, and understanding. Again, it’s important to note that there are times when it is obvious that someone has failed to move forward in a healthy manner and that appropriate action needs to be taken. They may want to seek help from a Christian mental health professional, or, if anger and doubts about God are preventing the healing, then a pastor should be sought out to give counsel from the Word once it becomes clear that you or someone else is being shaped by the event and failing to develop a scar.

BARRY STAGNER

Excerpt from Dancing With The Scars: Finding Hope When Life Hurts

3 thoughts on “Wounds and Scars”

  1. Thank you Pastor. I’m wondering if I need your book. Divorced and betrayed over 25 yrs ago. God has blessed. But still…:

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