“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage, and has a history, it becomes more beautiful — Billie Mobayed, Knowledge is Power.”

Did you ever notice how the people whose hardship gives them the most reason for giving up on life often become the fiercest advocates of living? They find meaning in their suffering that actually restores their will to live, rather than destroys it. What is more, many of them say that without having suffered they would not have been able to experience life’s wonder, fully.

Indeed, most of us will have experiences that challenge the integrity of what we know and that in which we believe, just as a result of living. But, some of you may have suffered sexual or physical abuse, the loss of a child, or a turn of events that wiped away the life that you once knew, completely. The cracks in spirit that come from these types of events tear at your heart and weaken your faith and will to live. These cracks are deep and thus harder to fill. You have to ask yourself some tough questions about life, God, and the worth of living, before you are able to muster up the strength and courage to try again.

Strangely enough what at first feels most definitely like a curse, for many, becomes the gift of being fully alive to life’s awe and mystery. That you can suffer so deeply and still come to see life’s beauty is what I believe is meant by God’s grace. And, what is, perhaps, the most amazing of all is that people who get to the other side of their suffering do so without retribution and victimhood. This is the gold that fills your cracks and makes your brokenness beautiful. Take Travis’ story of his “beautiful brokenness“, for example. He says,

“My abuse started when I was 4 and it wasn’t until the age of 34 that I saw the beauty in my own brokenness…30 year journeys can suck. My beautiful brokenness is that I get to enter into other people’s journey’s with a simple yet powerful thought: “me too”. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone and I would never want to relive a moment of it, but I’m grateful that God took something ugly and disgusting and has turned it for something beautiful by allowing me to share in other people’s lives in a way that I would never be able to otherwise had I not gone through what I went through. It doesn’t always make it easier, and I don’t always see beauty in it, but I love the glimpses I do get. “Me too” is healing to my soul. Travis Watson.

Travis is a fierce advocate of life. In fact, he is a pastor, helping others to use their suffering to strengthen their faith in God and living. We don’t have 30 years of his inner journey that resulted in his healing. But, I have no doubt that Travis asked himself some very tough questions about life’s meaning and worth, to get to the other side of his suffering. Like many people do, when circumstances force upon them a crisis in meaning and the will to live, Travis found answers to his questions that helped him to heal. He came to understandings that turned “something ugly and disgusting into something beautiful” and gave him “glimpses” into life’s ultimate beauty.

Travis’ story doesn’t surprise me. I have heard similar stories from people who have suffered life-changing pain and loss and thrived despite it. You may be asking right now, “Is this dressing up your brokenness with golden optimism?”  Most definitely, it is not. You cannot deny or hide your suffering, if you wish to find the beauty in living, despite what happened to you. Actually, the circumstances that have the power to break you so deeply deprive you of your normal defenses.

What is the Psychological Nature of this Damage?

A breakdown in ego–all that you have learned, identified with, and come to believe in has crumbled. You need answers to questions about life’s meaning and worth that gives you the will to live again, rather than to simply exist as a broken shell.

The questions that follow ask you to examine your true nature. Are you more than your suffering? Of course, this begs the question, “Is there something greater than your material and public self that should be guiding your living?”

  1. Are you something other than the things that have happened to you?
  2. Do you have a relationship to something other than the life that you have known?
  3. Is there a greater purpose of which you aspire to in life?
  4. Is there a way that you can live with what happened to you?
  5. Is the good life meant for you or are you just damaged goods?
  6. What is your calling? To what should you devote the rest of your life?
  7. What is the point of striving, after all that has happened?

These questions encourage you to think about living for something greater than your present self and circumstances. This is the only way to minimize your pain and suffering and to heal your brokenness. The more you highlight your psychological and spiritual self into who you are, the more whole you become. You become a great work of beauty and strength—damage and all. Now, we can appreciate much better how one can suffer so deeply and still come to see life’s beauty. Surely, this must be what is meant by God’s grace.


By: Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D.