Are Scars Beautiful?

my leg scar+

It took wild courage for me to post this picture.

If you can’t figure it out, it’s a photo of the scar on my left leg. I have spent much of my life hiding my scars, particularly this train track on my shin. This mark is visible whenever I wear a skirt so I have worn pants for decades. My scars used to tell me that I wasn’t like everyone else. They made me feel unattractive, an oddity, a bit of a freak.

Scars.

There are two kinds of scars, visible and invisible. Like many of us, I bear both. Each has been difficult. Each has elements of shame. Each carries its own pain. This post is about my visible scars; the next is about my invisible ones.

Some people are proud of their scars: they speak of courage. They show others what they’ve endured. But for me, with scars covering both my legs, they were not medals to wear, proclaiming my bravery. They were rather deficiencies to hide, reminding me daily of my flaws. Reminding me I was damaged.

As a teenager, I desperately wanted a perfect body, hoping that would have made me feel accepted. But instead I saw in the mirror a body deformed by polio and further marked by the 21 ensuing operations. In a world filled with images of flawlessly airbrushed models, it was a challenge to believe that my physical imperfections were beautiful.

So hiding my scars was natural. That way, no one could see how imperfect I was. That way, I could look more normal. That way, I wouldn’t be humiliated.

My scars were simply jagged reminders of my pain.

I hated going to the pool, or the beach, or anywhere that my legs could be seen. Even if no one openly stared, I imagined that everyone was repelled by my scars. That if they saw the real me, I wouldn’t be accepted. That my scars made me ugly.

For a short while my high school friend Maggie convinced me to show my legs at the beach. She said my scars might be ugly to me, but to everyone else they represented strength and courage. To everyone else, they revealed what I had endured just to walk. To everyone else, they were just part of what I’d been through. And for a while, I did show my bare legs, but I slowly reverted back to covering them up. It was easier that way.

I went back to believing the lies I had told myself: that I was more valuable if no one could see my scars.

I hid my wound marks and was comfortable doing so for decades. But one day, I was reading the Gospel of John and saw that Jesus, after He had risen, was recognized by His scars. That is how the disciples knew it was Him.  

Michael Card’s song Known By the Scars echoed through my head immediately. Why had I not connected with this sooner?

Jesus didn’t need to have scars on His resurrected body. His body could have been perfect, unblemished, unscarred. But He chose to keep His scars so His disciples could validate His identity. And even more importantly, so that they could prove He conquered death.

As I considered this truth, something stirred in me. My scars are significant and precious. I shouldn’t keep hiding them. I am recognizable by them; they make me unique. They are an integral part of who I am. But more importantly, they show that I am a conqueror. That I have suffered. That I have overcome. 

Scars represent more than I ever realized.  They can be beautiful.  The dictionary says that a scar is “a mark left by a healed wound.”

A healed wound. My scars signify healing.

And even though my initial flesh wounds have healed, there is yet a deeper healing in acceptance.  

I started to notice scars more as I looked around. There was something captivating about people who were unafraid to be themselves:  authentic, unmasked, and unashamed of the wounds that shaped them.

Their vulnerability was magnetic. I was drawn to them. To learn from their self- acceptance. To hear their stories. To see their courage.

I learned it was often a good thing to ask people about their scars. As long as I did it respectfully. And lovingly. Asking demystified their scars. And allowed people to share what had shaped them.  Because all scars have a story.

I saw that when we display our scars, we inspire others to do the same. 

Those of us with scars should wear them like jewels, treasured reminders of what we’ve endured. It’s okay to show our imperfections. They are evidence of our healing. And perhaps we’ll discover the beauty in our scars. 

  • April 4, 2014 - 12:17 am

    Teresa S - I think your legs are beautiful. I agree with your friend Maggie; your scars make me think of strength and courage. And showing them demonstrates a sort of fearlessness and joy. I have my own scars and I hide them too. Your post makes me realize that I don’t need to be ashamed, but that I am free in Christ from my fear of what others think of me. He loves and accepts me. That is more than enough. God bless you.ReplyCancel

    • April 5, 2014 - 9:54 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Teresa. Even as I wrote this post, God was teaching me so much about shame & freedom, fear & acceptance. Its been very freeing for me and I’m glad it has been that way for you too.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2014 - 7:56 am

    Kayla Akins - So very proud of you friend!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2014 - 8:41 am

    Chrissy - It is a hard thing to say, because my faithless flesh wants to say that I would rather you not have any scar because of the pain you endured through it, but I am thankful for the woman the Lord is molding you into, scars and all. I am forever grateful for a Sovereign God who takes the broken flesh of this world and redeems it/us into vessels of His glory. I love you dear friend. Thank you for posting this.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    Jennifer - Vaneetha,
    I know this was hard to write. But I know God will use it to bless and encourage others. Thank you for being brave.ReplyCancel

    • April 4, 2014 - 3:17 pm

      Ashley - Vaneetha….you are beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2014 - 4:46 pm

    Cathy Evans - Scars reveal your indisputable identity to any who know you. I’d never thought of Jesus’ scars from that perspective. I’m very aware of trying to hide my imperfections from others – those feel inherently my fault..in light of this post I’m thinking my way through how/when/why I am willing to show my “scars” or not….ReplyCancel

    • April 5, 2014 - 10:07 am

      Vaneetha - I hide All my scars too, Cathy. It has been a recent journey to start to reveal them…one that has given me more freedom than I would have ever imagined. Praying the Lord will show you what scars He wants you to show- both to benefit you & others.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2014 - 7:47 am

    Nevine Wissa - Dear Vaneetha,
    Thank you for your amazingly beautiful post.It’s the first time I ponder the thought that Jesus maintained His scars even after His resurrection.I guess He deliberately chose to do this for us-all those who bear scars anywhere in their bodies,(or souls)..I’ve come to learn a lot from the scars I bear in my body.At first,I was very rebellious,and then Jesus gradually taught me,and still is, that He must increase,and I must decrease.During this period of molding,pruning,and purifying,He provided for me to read this quote,which helped change the way I lperceived my scars”Scars are wounds filled in with Living Flesh.Scars are voids overcome with Life,and they bear witness that God can raise to Life again all those who have been pierced.”(Jon Tyson)
    Vaneetha,you are beautiful:)ReplyCancel

    • April 5, 2014 - 10:09 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Nevine. Loved your quote. And I so agree with what you’re learning- He must increase;I must decrease…ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2014 - 10:43 am

    Jo - Thank you for showing your closed and healed wound and how you are invited into a deeper healing. I am a bit envious that everyone else saw strength and courage, May God continue to bless you with the ones that see strength and courage.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2014 - 4:07 pm

    Amy - The beauty of our scars and of Jesus’ scars is something I’ve pondered and prayed over for about 10 years now, and you express so well what I have struggled to put into words. Yes, they are indeed beautiful. I came to understand that after I was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and underwent a bilateral mastectomy. I chose not to have reconstruction surgery, and so my body is forever marked with those scars. (I totally relate to what you’re saying about going to the pool or to the beach…it’s hard for me to even find the right style of swimsuit to cover my scars.) But every day when I see myself in the bathroom mirror, those scars are personal reminders that I am identified with Jesus, who also bears scars in his body, and I am able to give thanks for them. Do you think that, like Jesus, we will keep our scars in our glorified bodies? That’s something that I’ve done a lot of thinking on, and part of me thinks that yes, I’ll keep them forever as reminders of God’s goodness and sovereign grace in my earth journey. More to praise him for in the new kingdom…as if he himself weren’t enough already. Blessings.ReplyCancel

  • April 7, 2014 - 7:56 pm

    Ann Dotson - So well written. Thank you Vaneetha. Almost everyone can point to a scar and tell the story of what happened and how. You have a remarkable story, and the Lord is just beginning to use you to share about your “healed wounds.” Thank you for being open and available for the Lord to use and work through. You continue to amaze me and bless me. I love you dear friend!!ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2014 - 10:46 am

    Monininuade - Thank you Vaneetha for allowing God to use you to be a blessing. I first of all came across your post on Desiring God website a few weeks ago and I decided to subscribe to your blog. I have been challenged by your sincerity and openness which has helped me a lot during my present challenges.
    This post has brought things into perspective for me; I have learnt to ask God for forgiveness and I will be asking my husband for same too. I have blamed my husband as the reason I have scars on my body when I was diagnosed with a rare form of rash during my second pregnancy. The rash left so much marks on my body that I became so ashamed to wear clothes that would show my arms and legs.
    However, this post made me ponder and see the goodness of God in my life. The baby I was carrying in my womb then was born in a hospital car park; we were still about 10 minutes drive away from the hospital when her head came out. She is doing well to God’s glory and will be three years old in a few months.
    God bless you for reminding us that God loves us the way we are!ReplyCancel

    • April 8, 2014 - 4:50 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that this post was a blessing to you. I can imagine that the marks from your rashes are difficult- but I pray they will also be a reminder of God’s grace in your life with your beautiful daughter. The memories from all my scars are bittersweet…Prayed for you as you God walks you through the healing of these scars.ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 10:50 pm

    Scarred - Vaneetha Demski - […] In my life, I want to redefine scars. To see them as evidence of healing. For more of my journey, see my previous post “Are Scars Beautiful?” […]ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2014 - 10:01 pm

    Cindy Finley - Vaneetha, this is simply beautiful. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2014 - 10:44 am

    Danelle - Such a beautiful post, my friend. You are brave and beautiful and I am so thankful for you. By His stripes (scars) we have been healed!ReplyCancel

  • April 29, 2014 - 5:41 pm

    Glory Rendall - Dear Vaneetha, what a beautiful post! There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in scars. Every person in this world has scars and plenty of them. But as you say scars just make us stronger and we should be proud of them. I personally think that just as God will wipe away all tears when we are called home, He will remove all our scars and give us new bodies, spiritual bodies, perfect bodies and I also feel that His scars will be removed by God because He has conquered sin but just as long as He is our Advocate and as long as we are on this earth continually sinning but are repentant, He stands before God Almighty and pleads for us and shows God His scars and says, ” I forgave my child on the cross, look at My scars, I took his/her sin upon Me , ALL of it so I ask You to wipe away his/her sin and remember them no more”.
    On a lighter note, may I say that your legs are beautiful and so are you! Love you Van and do keep in touch. You are a very brave young lady.ReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2014 - 4:00 am

    erica - I had trouble sleeping worrying about a scar. So I prayed and asked God to lead me to something online that would comfort me and show me his message. And here I am, reading your article! Your scars are truly meant to encourage others. God Bless you!!ReplyCancel

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