There are physical scars. And there are other kinds of scars. This story is a bit about both. You see, I have scars. One of them happens to be a burn mark that constitutes a quarter of my face. You can’t miss it, and neither can I.
As an infant, I somehow crawled around the floor, and got my head wedged between the wall and a ripping-hot metal steam radiator. It was severe. It was life-changing. As my own parents can attest, it made growing up just a little bit different than other kids. As a grown man, my relationship with my physical wound has evolved as I have. Now I use humor! “Forgive me, which side of my face is it on?”
Frankly, in social situations I don’t really worry about it. After all, you’re the one that has to look at me.
You see the thing is, while I’ve had to live with this scar on my face I have absolutely no memory of the event itself. Or any of the rehabilitation. As far as I’ve been concerned, it’s just something that happened. I have long ago fully accepted it. And I can lay claim to the fact that this, the big burn right there on my face, is something that has healed – both physically and emotionally.
Or so I thought.
One day I discovered for myself a startling realization. While I may feel perfectly OK around the scar I bear, it MUST BE a totally different story for my parents. In fact, they’re the ones who were responsible for me at that age. I was not. They were the ones to endure my many stages of healing, while possibly bearing the burden of all those fears, concerns and judgements.
This realization was startling. I could just imagine in my mind what their experience must have been, lovingly looking into the face of their little boy – and seeing the very reminder of how they may have seen themselves as parents. It broke my heart.
After a powerful seminar, with my burning self-realization in mind, I decided to pick up the phone and call my parents.
“Mom, I forgive you,” I began. “For me, my scar is just something that happened. But for you, I can imagine it was something different. I love you. And for what it’s worth, I want you to know that I am OK.”
She cried. I cried.
I even had the same conversation with my dad.
This was the start of something new in my lifelong relationship with my parents. Because the lesson I learned on this day was that there are physical scars, and there are emotional scars.
I found I can help to heal such wounds, even if it belongs to others … even if it belongs to my own parents.