Can Scars Bring Healing?


by Trevor DeVage


A local radio DJ recovering from brain surgery spoke this week about a man he met in a store where he and his wife were shopping. “Look,” she said. “That guy has a head scar just like yours. Go talk to him.” The DJ discovered this stranger had undergone the same surgery as he had—by the same doctor in the same hospital. They had an immediate bond, and it started with their scars.

This is an extreme example, but it isn’t all that unusual. Get a group of men together, and they’re often showing off their scars. Each one is proof of their bravery or bravado: a cut hand, a bruised forehead, a gash on the leg. Sometimes the guys will just admit a clumsy fall or a foolish risk. The group gets a good laugh, and the bond between them grows stronger.  Women, too, will compare the scars from their Caesarean sections or other surgeries, even if they don’t show them off. Describing their common scars brings them closer to each other.

Our scars, once revealed, allow us to say, “I was hurt that way, too.” So I wonder what could happen if our most shameful, unseen scars—emotional, psychological scars caused by abuse or depression or broken relationships or personal failures—could also come out from hiding.

The fact is that all of us have been scarred by something. And in the church, we’ve perfected the art of concealing our scars. If that can change, we’ll find new ways to help people admit—and cope with—how they’ve been hurt.



I’ve always been intrigued by what Jesus did first when he surprised the disciples to show them he had risen from the dead. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:19, 20 ESV).

He showed them his scars! He could have come with a perfect body, but his scars proved his identity. What had happened to him was central to who he was and why he came. I like to think he was giving the disciples permission to be honest about their scars by displaying his.

We think people want to see perfection in us, but that’s wrong. People can’t relate to perfection. They can better cope with their own brokenness when we admit ours to them. Out of our pain we find commonality, not out of our perfection. And God will use our pain to help others, if we let him.

We see it all around us. Parents of a child who died too young find ways to bless children and their teachers throughout the community. A widower reaches out to other men learning to live alone again. Addicts flock to support groups where they can admit their struggle and discover ways to recover. Mothers of adult children who committed suicide become close friends.



I’ll always remember an eighty-year-old lady who came to me after I had taken heat about my tattoos. She pointed me to her ankle, raised her pant leg, and showed me the tattoo there hidden just out of sight. “Just because you can’t see ‘em doesn’t mean they don’t have ‘em,” she said. “A lot of these guys griping at you have tattoos of naked ladies they got when they were young and in the armed service. They’re keeping them hidden. But each of your tattoos is out there, telling the story you want the world to know.” Every time I saw her after that she smiled and pointed to her ankle.

But don’t let me distract from my main message with that story. The point is that all of us have hidden scars. Some of them, like a tattoo, have been self-imposed. Many of them were caused by others against our will. All of them can give us purpose with an opportunity to serve.

As I said in my Sunday sermon, “It’s better to hurt with a purpose than to exist without one.” For all of us seeking our purpose in life, I’m suggesting this strategy: Let someone—or everyone—see your scars.

P.S. To see a living example of how revealed scars lead to healing for many, click here. Then go to Wikipedia to discover more details about how one young woman’s scars were the beginning of a movement changing lives around the world.

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