An object is considered valuable, simply for what it is
Japanese artists consider a broken ceramic vessel valuable enough to spend the time and effort mending it, rather than discarding it. The fact that it is damaged, and potentially not very useful, does not detract from its value. It is a temporary state of affairs and its function and usefulness will be restored once the repair is completed. How often do we look at ourselves with disappointment when we’ve made a mistake? And if the mistake caused damage, it can be so difficult not to think of our damaged selves as failures. Others get it right, why can’t we? The Kintsugi way is to recognise that our value is not determined by what we look like, or by what we can do. Instead, it manifests in how we interact with the world we live in, in how we give and in how we care.
The Kintsugi way considers damage a normal and even valuable part of history. It tells the story of a fully lived life. Pretending that the bowl is still perfect, by mending it in a way that would hide the repairs, denies its authenticity and dishonours its history. Hindsight is the only perfect science. How many decisions would we have made differently, if only we knew the outcome in advance? But that’s not real life. To be real means to tackle whatever life throws our way with courage. It means to try new ways of doing things. To occasionally take wrong turns, whether by accident or in protest. To fall and to get hurt, but to get back up and keep going.
Scars remind us that what was once broken, is now repaired
Instead of trying to hide the damage, Japanese artists highlight the repairs with gold and silver. The inlays deliberately draw attention to the repairs, as if to say, “Look, this is where it was broken but is whole again!” If only we can learn to celebrate our scars, instead of hiding them. If only we can learn to honour the effort it took to pick ourselves up after a fall and put the pieces back together again. When we stop comparing ourselves to others and start treating ourselves with compassion and respect, we’ll be able to look back at past events and marvel at our strength and resilience. This is the Kintsugi way to health and well-being.
Repairing what’s broken creates strength and resilience
A broken ceramic bowel put back together again with precious metal inlays will be much stronger than it was before it broke. It may get chipped here and there, but it is unlikely to break again. The inlays will hold it together. Sometimes it may be a matter of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, sometimes a matter of ‘practice makes perfect’, it doesn’t really matter which one. The fact is, our scars make us stronger. They represent lessons learnt. They represent wisdom paid for with pain and a degree of suffering. Learning from our past and looking forward with hope instead of despair is the Kintsugi way to a healthy mind and body.
Repairs made with care and love create a one-of-a-kind beauty
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This has never been truer than when we look at someone’s scars or even our own. The Japanese artists make a conscious decision to beautify the repair lines, making it easy to see beauty in a repaired vessel. When we realise that our scars tell our story, when we realise that no-one else has the same scars or the same story, when we realise that we are indeed unique because of our scars and our stories, then we can look at ourselves the Kintsugi way – with admiration and wonderment.
Some damage, whether self-inflicted or inflicted on us by others, have long-lasting consequences and leaves deeper scars. It doesn’t really matter. The Kintsugi way encourages us to acknowledge and honour our past and our struggles, to celebrate our victories and to move forward with courage and wisdom.