The Scars That Shape Us

October 2, 2021.

It’s now been six years since I heard those three little words that would change my life. The three words that would shape my future and become a large part of my legacy. 

“Karissa is dead.”

That’s it. That was all he said and my world was forever changed. 

A wound so deep that I wondered if it would ever heal. But like most wounds they eventually heal. They heal but depending on the depth of the wound they leave a permanent scar. 

Our scars shape us. 

We can try to ignore them, we can wear them like a victim or we can wear them with pride. 

On October 2, 2021, the sixth anniversary of her murder I took the time to drive out to the mountains. I made the three hour trek to Nordegg and went for a hike up Coliseum Mountain. I have made a journey to be out in nature on most of the anniversaries since that fateful day.

October 2 for me is not so much about grieving the loss as it is about celebrating life. It is a time to reflect on the lessons learned and to look at how this scar informs my view of the world. It is about reflecting how I can use this scar to affect change in others. 

I didn’t have a choice to carry this scar or not, however,  I do have a choice in how I let it shape me. October 2 is the day each year where I spend some time getting intentional about how this wound shapes the man I am today. It is about reflecting on the man I am as well as planning for the man I want to be. 

Our scars shape us. 

Scars are a permanent part of who we are and absolutely impact how we show up in this world. 

When I was 16 my parents shipped me off to Australia to live with my Uncle John. I was way out of control. A teenager in full rebellion and Mom and Dad did not know what to do with me. Fortunately Mom’s brother John was a successful businessman. He was someone who I respected as a rebel done good.  I thought Uncle John viewed the world a little closer to how I did. Uncle Johnny taught me a lot about the value of hard work.

It was there in Australia where I earned my first major physical scar. I was in the backseat of a new found friend’s car. Stereo blaring, engine roaring, driving way too fast for the slick road conditions caused by a torrential rain storm. The windy road, an inexperienced driver, and slick conditions all a recipe for disaster. 

I was young and invincible so I sat in the middle of the backseat leaning up through the bucket seats so I could be part of the action. Life was good. Laughter abound. New friends, loud music, fast cars… 

And then there was the telephone pole. Tires releasing their grip on the pavement. Young driver overcorrecting, car flying out of control sideways into the pole. 100 to zero in an instant. With no seat belt on I got the worst of it. Thrown around like a rag doll. Broken ribs, crushed lung, ruptured spleen causing internal bleeding requiring emergency surgery. 

The final toll, 4 days in a coma, a bunch of broken ribs, a crushed lung, a ruptured spleen and a scar from belly button to sternum where they ripped me open to repair the damaged organs. A reminder I see every day of my life. 

Our scars shape us. 

In my life I have had many different scars of various shapes and sizes. All of us have. Some more, some less, it doesn’t matter. Now is not the time for comparison. Now is the time for reflection. Now is the time to get curious about your scars. Now is the time to learn from them and wear them with pride. 

What are your scars?
How do you feel about our scars?
Do you resent them?
Do you deny them?
Do you own them?
What meaning will you give to them?

These are all questions that I reflect on every year at this time. Every year I renew my commitment to “Make Beautiful Shit Happen” and make sure that I am continuing down a path that is worthy of the man this deeply scarred human being wants to be. 

Two years ago I brought this topic to my Men’s group as a theme for the night. I asked the men to reflect on the scars that have shaped them. We talked about how to make sure that we own our scars and how we can ensure that our scars do not own us. It all comes down to this simple truism. 

With awareness comes choice.

The scars I described above are fairly large and glaringly obvious. They are pretty hard to ignore. However for many of us we work hard to ignore the scars that wound us. They are too painful to acknowledge so we go about our daily lives allowing them to simmer under the surface quietly influencing our decisions, our behaviors and ultimately our outcomes in life. They become the subtle forces that silently guide us.

Every scar has a story, every story a purpose. Sometimes the meaning in those stories is abundantly evident, other times it can feel like there cannot be any possible meaning that would inflict such pain.

“For your pain is Rachel’s legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice,  but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.”

Ram Dass – Letter to Rachel

Your scars are the living legacy of who you are. They are the roadmap of your past, your present and they will shape your future. 

The question becomes will you get intentional with how your scars shape you? Or will you let them whisper softly in your ear, so gently that we can ignore their influence and live a life by default rather than by design. 

What are some of the scars that shape you?

How do those scars impact how you show up in the world?

Where can you be more intentional about how those scars move you through life?

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