You Are Not Meant to Live Pain-Free – RELEVANT Magazine

“It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.”

photo credit: goodepeoples

photo credit: goodepeoples

This article was picked up by RELEVANT Magazine. Read it on their website.

It was summer in Minnesota, the pleasant breeze mingling with the warm afternoon sun. We were always outside, my siblings and I, running and playing and putting good old imagination to work back in the days before handheld screens overtook our generation.

There must have been something I wanted hanging up on the garage wall, but when I jostled between the dangling extension cords and mechanic lights, an unexpected item slipped off its pegs and fell toward me.

Dad’s bow saw sliced open my finger.

I stood shocked for a moment before shuffling to the front porch to show mom and my brother and sister. It was nearly cut to the bone.

Scars Tell Your Story

That incision healed long ago and I can’t find any scar. I can barely remember the details of the story, and that makes me wonder how many experiences I’ve forgotten when the scars disappeared.

“It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.” – Garrison Keillor

The thing about scars is that we don’t go searching for them. They find us in moments of danger, risk, and doing something new.

A significant scar means you’ve done or attempted something significant.

Maybe scars find us in our everyday routine, chopping vegetables for a garden salad or catching the edge of a door or exposed nail. Perhaps it’s the grueling weekend home makeover or backpacking trip that gave you some blisters and bruises and even cut you. Or in the darker moments, when the surgery is over but something inside you still feels unhealed, but you’re left with scars to remind you of the thing that ate away at you. Large or small, every scar tells something about us.

What Pain Reveals

When you get cut, you see what you couldn’t see before. It reveals what was already there. You see blood pour out, and you realize that the things you’ve heard about your mortality, that you’re not invincible—those things are true. You’re human, just like the rest of us.

Pain reveals identity; it shows you who you really are. (tweet this or share it)

When you bleed, you might panic and worry and frantically try to find relief, but it also shows that your body is operating correctly, that it’s circulating and taking your brain some oxygen and running through your heart and the whole lot of it.

You can’t live a pain-free life; you don’t want to anyway. It would be bland, without texture and contrast and beauty that only comes from a dramatic story.

Scars are like tattoos, some say, except you didn’t expect to get them. The moment just happened to you and now you bear a mark on your body from it.

The pain we endure is a vital part of our story. (tweet this or share this on Facebook)

We learn the hardest lessons because of conflict, discomfort, and pain, but those are the reasons we remember those lessons, too.

If it takes scars to remind us what we’ve been through, some of us will look pretty battered and torn before we remember what we’ve endured. Take the shortcut and recall some of your scars with stories.


What’s the best story from one of your scars?


Thanks to RELEVANT Magazine for picking up this article!

Read more stories about growing through risks, change, and leaps of faith in John’s upcoming book, The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices. Get a free chapter.

4 responses to “You Are Not Meant to Live Pain-Free – RELEVANT Magazine

  1. Parents today strive so hard to prevent their children from experiencing ANY pain — physical, emotional, etc., that they shouldn’t be surprised when those children take drugs to “feel no pain.” They have been prevented from developing the inner strength to OVERCOME their pain. (I speak from personal experience — had polio as a 3-year old, have a genetic bone disease that caused broken bones, surgeries, etc. from 3 years old forward, came from an emotionally abusive family, etc. etc., but was always encouraged by parents to forge ahead no matter what. Today I’m in my mid-sixties and take only the occasional Tylenol for chronic pain. Instead, I use natural methods such as deep meditation, swimming as exercise, and my natural enjoyment and curiosity about life to distract me from physical discomfort, boredom, depression, etc. I’m so fortunate to have had parents who, despite their own struggles with depression and alcoholism, still were able to teach me how to live a full, rewarding life).

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