“Scar Wars” When Scars of the Past Battle with the Present

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Return with Freedom, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The scene takes place in the galley of a fishing boat. Three men, who 24 hours earlier, shared mostly contempt and arrogance toward each other, had just survived “round one” of man vs. nature. But now they were acting like old friends. I wonder if it was because they were removed from the “battle field” where it was evident that they were up against something bigger than all three of them that bagan the bond. They began an exchange, I decided to call “scar wars”. The exchanged sounded like this: “hey look at this scar. I got it from an eel… or this from a bar fight, or this from the girl who broke my heart…

vincent-scar, trauma, ramona taylor, PTSD

The men were in essence echoing an ancestral game once played by warriors returning after a raid, a challenging hunt, or fending off a wild and deadly animal. This version seemed more like a game of grown up show and tell and succeeded in breaking up an awkward silence as they sat feeling small in the dark silence of the ocean. I called these exchanges “Scar-Wars” because the exchanges are territorial at first: ” I can do better than that look at my scar it’s from…” Still the stories open a window that reveals just how alike we are in our humanness. We are all at times vulnerable, silly, clumsy, or week.

Back to the fishing boat: The atmosphere in the galley scene changes. Someone in the “scar-wars” exchange takes an interest in an obvious scar. The owner of this scar, a non hospitable character was not participating in the game. The players, fell silent the one upping game ceased as they possibly questioned if this player was going to fold without showing his hand? Or was he going to show his hand and reveal his trump card? Then out of character this unlikable sailor seemed to stir. Maybe because he knew that death could be waiting around the corner , he considered thoughtfully, then he hesitantly shared his story. The room becomes still and quiet. The men stop smiling and listen compassionately maybe even introspectively. They knew that his story might touch on some of their own untold stories, and they knew that this scar might reveal more about who this salty old dog really was.


I sat among the theater audience listening much like the characters in the story, thinking, as his story unraveled…“oh that’s who you are.” My heart softened toward this contentious character. I was saddened that his identity more than with the others was wrapped up in this one story, this one scar.

The scar was self inflicted. It was the result of an attempt to remove tatoo. The tattoo served as a reminder of two life changing battles in this man’s life. The last was a tragic battle he had with nature. After being torpedoed, he and several shipmates watched helplessly as man-eating sharks picked them off one by one. He bore no visible scars because even though he shared many days in the water among the sharks, he was never bitten. Surviving and not being bitten came at a high price and it was not something worth bragging about. On the wake of this man versus nature battle, he had successfully delivered the Hiroshima bomb. Again, he couldn’t brag about winning that battle either and again there was no visible scar. But there was a tatoo. The tatoo that would serve as a reminder of the tragic stories he was part of. It was that tatoo that he tried to remove. As if the removing the tatoo would erase the memory.

But there was still a scar.

So it is that some wounds don’t seem to leave a visible scar. But visible or invisible all scars have a story. Whether the scar is on the flesh or below the surface, like the tatoo, removing it often leaves a scar too.

I am familiar with these invisible scars. Some considered them a “badge of honor”. Some wrap their lives around them. Some use it as their personal trump card for the ” I am tougher than you ‘star wars’ game”. The scar for some serves as justification to be guarded, reckless, bitter, detached. Of ten the influence of the stories behind the scars go untold, as they effectively ward of anyone (including the bearer) from opening an old wound. The scar bearer, holding the trump card (my pain is beyond expression, beyond understanding), begins to feel isolated avoiding those who might be even slightly familiar with the pain behind the scar. Sometimes compassion is hard found while avoiding the possibility of listening and possibly entering into someone else’s story. So as the stories go untold, and the scars stay hidden and the ability to relate to others and to know oneself is often limited.

One of the steps found in recovery programs is to uncover (or take inventory of) each and every scar.   Therapists  acknowledge the benefits of processing the stories behind the scars.  Many who bear scars,  believe that because scars being from old wounds have had lost their potency, or that it would be toxic to consider opening an old wound. But I have found that there is power in the sharing of these inventories,  unveiling these stories.   Unspoken stories can are potent, and not necessarily defining. Sharing these unspoken stories in the present effectively can release and remove the emotional charge connected to the story, its secrets, and its lies. As in the game of scar wars, the players experience a sense of shared humanity, mutual respect, empathy, understanding,  appropriate silence, and acceptance. The men mourned their losses, connected in the present with tears and even laughter. They were all wounded, but for that moment,  as they shared their stories,  and struggled with the new challenge of remembering the past and revealing their flesh… they found connection.


For those in the faith: 1John 1:9 says: “if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” their is power in the telling of our stories. The promise of cleansing is not only about cleansing from what was done by us but also extends to what was done to us. There is hope. Hope for new soft flesh, beyond the scaring, and a heart that can laugh, and break, and be full.

  • (scene references to the motion picture Jaws)



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