Susan Steen

Susan Steen

“It’s easy for someone to joke about scars if they’ve never been cut.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The cut was deep, but not so deep, as cuts go.

It took the scab a long time to heal, but not so long, as scabs go.

The scab finally disappeared, and I’m left with a scar, but it isn’t so noticeable, as scars go.

Maybe you don’t have any scars — never fell from a tree, had someone make you fall from your bike, or had a huge log bounce back into your ankle when you tossed it to the pile of wood. That was my most recent incident, and what a doozie of a spot I have now, several weeks later.

When Shakespeare speaks of people joking about scars when they’ve never been cut, I realize he is not talking about the ones I can point out to you. He is talking about the ones you cannot see, and those are usually more painful.

The most wonderful thing about the end of one year and the beginning of the next is what we leave behind as we look forward with hope. 2020 left some scars, and it left some scabs that are still very fresh.

Mercurochrome is a distant memory for me and nonexistent for many people, yet I wonder if it would have helped some of the wounds of the past year. And, of course, Vitamin E is great for physical scars, and I have been curious what might be available that is as helpful in making our emotional scars fade. I am hopeful we can heal, but does it just take time, or are there things we can do to help ourselves heal?

Life throws hard things at us, and I remain convinced that though it isn’t my preference, life is actually pretty normal when it is sometimes difficult, frustrating, and even painful. Finding no less than 50 books on the subject of hurt, I thought I might go the route of a child and read “The Boo Boo Book”. Lucky for all of us I found research that seems more apropos for the hurts you and I face in leaving the safety of a cave in which we live alone (and very few of us have the luxury of that cave).

Some of us might have had a bad experience that left us feeling hurt, while others are hurting from a series of experiences. Hurts add up, and it can be difficult to allow ourselves to hope for something better or hope to find healing.

Since my theme for the year is about hope, I can tell you I hope to heal some of the hurts — I want to not pick at the scabs, and I want to look at the scars and see that they aren’t as painful as they once were.

We each can come up with examples, but I found one quite recently: I watched people who were hurt and angry force their way into the Capitol of our country, which left the rest of us feeling hurt and angry. Hurt people hurt people.

The abused often become the abusers. Hurt people hurt people.

The bullied often become the bullies. Hurt people hurt people.

The heartbroken often become the heartbreakers. Hurt people hurt people.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys being hurt — physically or emotionally. When I hurt my leg, I wanted to know what I could do to heal the wound most quickly. Just as we often worry more about our physical appearance than what is happening inside our bodies, so it is when we have wounds others can’t see. If you could make a difference in how you are hurting, what would be your hopes for taking better care of yourself?

Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” If your hopes are to hurt less, to heal more fully, and to hurt others less, let your choices reflect that. Make choices that prevent you from picking at your scabs because those are the cuts that never fully heal and could become infected.

Each professional resource offered very similar ideas, and I hope you and I can put them into practice just as if we were tending to a physical wound:

Acknowledge your hurt. If you cut your leg, you wouldn’t ignore it, so don’t ignore emotional hurts. Leaving them buried can mean piling hurt upon hurt, until it’s more than you are able to easily repair.

Tend to your hurt. If you cut your leg, you wouldn’t just look at the blood and hope it dries up; you’d treat it with something — even if it stings. If someone hurts you, don’t just cry and hope it will get better or not happen again. Take steps (therapy, time alone, addressing the other person) to take away the power of their hurt.

Take steps to prevent the hurt in the future. I will not toss a big log with a jagged end into the pile again so carelessly. If you are hurting, consider how to safeguard yourself the next time. One of my best lessons was the one about insanity being doing the same thing expecting different results. If we want our situation to change, we have to change the way we are doing things. Sometimes, that means removing ourselves from what (or who) puts us in harm’s way. 

So, here we are — sometimes feeling hurt by our own choices, and sometimes experiencing pain through no fault of our own. But in all of it, we can have hope for less pain, and in the case of our country, for better days and better relationships. If they come out with Bactine for hurting hearts, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Until then, we’ll have to handle our hurts head-on with hope for smoother scars and less painful cuts.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.

Recommended for you