Scar Tissue is a Badge

By Don Hall

"Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on." — Henry Rollins

This is the quote I've had written beneath my Gmail signature since I've had it (I'm thinking at least ten years or so). Another version I like to quote is, "Scars mean you survived."

Scar tissue replaces normal skin tissue after the skin is damaged. Though scar tissue is made up of the same substance as undamaged skin, it looks different because of the way the fibers in the tissue are arranged. Scars form every time the skin is damaged beyond its first layer, whether that damage comes from a cut, burn, or a skin condition like acne or a fungal infection. Though there are ways to minimize the appearance of scars, there is no way to remove them entirely.

Emotional scar tissue, it can be assessed, replaces the normal emotional stasis after the emotional foundation is damaged. That damage can come at one's own hands or at the hands of others and is rarely visible to the naked eye. My guess is, that if we could see the emotional scar tissue, we would infrequently get into relationships (be they romantic, familial, friendships or business partnerships) because in the average person, there are bound to be far more emotional scars than we let on.

If the scars we carry internally looked at all like the scars we have on our bodies, I wonder what they'd look like?

Broken Relationships = Tattoos
Yes, a tattoo is basically a scar. You cut into the skin and inject ink. It heals and you have a permanent emblem. Most tough breakups seem to feel that way, even when you are long past the initial pain and heartache there is almost always that residual reaction that declares itself as being a habit formed with someone else. Also, covering up a tattoo isn't like getting it removed—it's still there, taunting you.

Addictions = Burn Scars
These are harder to cover up. Addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, heroin, crack—all are pretty obvious and most people find them pretty unsightly. Burn scars are even a different type of skin tissue than other types of scars—more fibrous and much thicker.

Family Issues = Laceration Scars
Those long, weird, puckered scars from when you gashed your arm on a piece of glass through a window or tore into your leg by hurtling off your motorcycle? Just like the wounds inflicted upon your psyche by a controlling parent or a hateful sibling. These are the scars you can hide but are still seen when you're most naked and vulnerable.

All that said, the presence of scar tissue indicates that the bearer has lived some life. Only babies should be scar-free. An adult, in order to earn those stripes, needs to expose him/herself to potential harm, fall off the ladder, burn the fingers, and grow some of that unsightly imperfection that makes an adult more interesting (and hopefully more wise) than a child.

Every scar is a story. Every story exposes our humanity.

Scars don't just mean you survived. They mean you have lived a full and unafraid life.