It is nearly impossible to travel through this life without comparing ourselves to others or to some expectation or standard – imaginary or real. With those comparisons it is easy to define differences as deficits. I often hear parents of young children talking about the various developmental stages that their children are experiencing, especially compared to other children or a pediatrician’s standard metric. Are our children on track, behind or ahead? And what will it mean for their lives? Will they be good enough, lovable, worthy? And worse yet, what does it say about us personally?
And yet, even just a casual observation of the world of people, creatures, plants and trees confirms the hypothesis that we are all very different and unique. There can be no “right” model. That illusion is projected on to us from media and cultural consumerism and our own fear. The feature that seems to create the most beauty and character and welcoming joy is the light. The light from within.
We have all been around this light, even if we haven’t known just what it was. It is that feeling of being with someone who knows deep down inside they have value, they are good enough, they are tender with themselves, and they practice self compassion and a sense of humor about what ever they see as their imperfections.
Not only do these individuals have this within themselves, and thus allow it to radiate out wherever they go, but they offer the same gift to others. It has been said that it is difficult to give away what you don’t have yourself. If you are self critical, you are apt to be critical of others. If you don’t trust yourself to be good enough and lovable even if you make a mistake, it is hard to allow others to be lovable when they make mistakes or let you down.
Peter Mayer, the singer songwriter from Minneapolis, sings about the Japanese Bowl on his album Heaven Below. It is the story of the ancient Japanese bowls and how when they would have a crack or a broken piece, they would be mended and the cracks filled with gold. These bowls have increased in value over time and are now considered treasures. Peter Mayer sings about how he is like the Japanese Bowls, with “scars that show every time I grow.”
This image is a beautiful way to imagine our own selves, growing more valuable over time because we have allowed our cracks to show and shine instead of hiding them in the black dusty cloak of shame and secrecy. How we could transform the world if we could see our own, and others, cracks as beautiful images of growth. It would have to start with each of us having the courage to experience ourselves as good enough, lovable, and worthy. A cracked bowl filled with gold.