Change can be painful—and an opportunity for growth.
My new rescue pup, Lily Pad, has knee problems. So we’re addressing this with something called “prolotherapy,” which, unlike invasive surgeries, requires a series of injections that stimulate the body’s ability to create scar tissue.
The hope is that this scar tissue will then provide the needed structure for the knee caps and connective tendons to stay firmly in place, and we can avoid the traditional, harsher surgery.
Her older sister, Betty Lou, had the same knee problems when she was young, but back then our only option was surgery—painful, stressful (for both pup and human!) and requiring a lengthy recuperation time.
Lily’s fortunate: Her procedures are not particularly painful, nor do they require much recovery. She’s ready to bound around the next day.
I hadn’t thought of scar tissue as being so helpful...but honestly, I wish this procedure was available to humans when I was young and suffered a skiing injury to my own knee. Anything would have been better than six months in a brace.
So this got me thinking about our human need for emotional scar tissue. And how there are times when we need to protect ourselves; protect our hearts from breaking, our emotions from running amok, our sanity. And, like little Lily’s knees, perhaps it’s the build-up of scar tissue from previous tough times that helps us learn and care for ourselves when tough times appear again.
A friend of mine refers to these as “character-building moments.” And certainly we would all agree that we learn and grow from the difficult experiences in life, as much as, or perhaps even more than, we do from the easy experiences.
That is, if we are open to viewing our human foibles, troubles and stumbles as opportunities for greater growth and self-awareness.
We cannot accomplish this if we’re locked into blaming and shaming. If we blame others for our difficulties, then we keep ourselves in a continual state of disempowerment: It’s all their fault. They have the power. But if we are interested in seeing clearly where our responsibility lies in any given situation, and we’ve got the fortitude to accept that responsibility, then the doors open.
We are able to empower ourselves and say: Well, that was painful, but what are my options? What will I do with this experience? How might I learn from this?
So, perhaps the tough, scarring times are, in fact, the valuable, character-building, lesson-learning experiences we humans need in order to survive. We need to fall, scrape our knees, build up scar tissue, and become more empowered for having the experience.
I think about parents who do all they can to protect their kids from getting hurt. It’s their job, and most parents do it well. But parents know that they can’t be there all the time, to protect their children from every hurt they will experience. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
When little Johnny experiences or witnesses bullying, it’s a teaching moment for his parents. When little Sally is the object of discrimination, she learns (again, with parental help) the best ways to cope with it, and how not to discriminate against others. Nobody wants to see their child suffer, and yet we want our children to grow up to become strong, capable, wise adults.
We’re going to have experiences that create scar tissue. That’s a given. Whether it’s the little hardships in life that we can pretty much navigate without too much difficulty, or the big, life-changing experiences that accumulate to create our character, every moment of life gives us opportunity.
Perhaps the healthiest thing we can do with these experiences is to let the scar tissue do its job. Let it build up a bit, strengthen us, provide wisdom and the tools needed for coping with future chapters of life.
Until next time: “If we banish the dragons, we banish the heroes.” — Andrew Solomon