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December 3, 2004

Do Scars Really Matter?

It was June 9, 2003, 4:00 am, when I received the phone call all parents dread – “This is the emergency room calling and your son was just brought in with severe burns on his face, neck, and arms. We have called for an airlift and are going to fly him to the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.” Since this is a distance of 350 miles from his college in Pullman, Washington, we knew immediately it was SERIOUS.

The physician on the phone described the accident, which caused the burns – at 2:00 am, he and his friends decided to barbeque hamburgers in the courtyard of their apartment complex. – not exactly the dinner hour for you and me, but for college students, probably fairly normal. While they were cooking, an automatic sprinkler system came on dousing the grill. They dragged the wet grill to another location and attempted to relight it. Doing what most adults know not to do, they squirted lighter fluid directly on the smoldering coals. The grill literally exploded, and, as it ignited, the flames caught my son’s shirt tail. With his clothes ablaze, the flames shot from his waist to well over his head. Fortunately one of the boys was quick witted, grabbed my son, and rolled him into the sprinkler system head first. While it saved his life, it was not in time to save him from severe burns and the associated terrible scars. After he recovered from the immediate danger and treatments, the doctors told him they would not do plastic surgery for 6 months because it takes that long for the skin to stop shrinking and wrinkling. So he had to return to college with scars typical of severe burns.

When I was a child, I remember my mother telling my sister, who had a 10 inch, very visible and nasty scar on her arm, “Nancy, if you ignore the scar, other people will ignore it. It does not mean they will not notice it, because they will; but, it means it will not matter to them if it does not matter to you.” I found myself passing this wisdom on to my son. “Keaton, no one will pay any more attention to your scars than you do. If they do not bother you, they will not bother others.” He took my advice to heart and returned to school with his head held high – glad he was alive. By the end of the six-month waiting period, he decided that the scars did not matter and did not define who he was; so he made the decision to forgo any plastic surgery.

We all have scars and flaws that we believe cause people to reject us or to shun us. And we spend a lot of time thinking that if only we looked differently, or dressed differently, or could have more money, or a different and newer car, people would like us better. But you see, like Keaton’s scars, people will only judge you by your looks or your clothes or your car, if you are judging yourself by these same false standards.

One of my friends in college was as ugly as homemade sin and yet, when people met him, they noticed his looks for approximately 10 seconds. This man felt good about who he was as a person and spent most of his time concerned about other people’s comfort and welfare. It never seemed to occur to him he would be rejected because of his looks – and he wasn’t. What people saw was his kindness, his concern for them, his sense of humor and, after those first 10 seconds, they never noticed his looks - because he set the standard himself. He didn’t act ‘ugly’, and people did not treat him as ‘ugly’.

What about your scars and flaws? Do you let them define who you are? Do you really believe that other people care about what is only on the surface? Or are you able to look beneath your skin and see the beautiful person residing within. Today, put your imperfections out of your mind and concentrate on what you value within yourself. Because if you can see that beautiful person, every one you come in contact with will see the same beauty. Let that beauty shine through.

LYNNE IS THE AUTHOR OF THE MOTIVATIONAL BOOK, “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow – Transforming Tragedy into Triumph”… A book about finding your authentic self and saying YES to life. The reader rediscovers their inner strength with which, through day-to-day struggles, they have lost touch. It will inspire your soul, tickle your funny bone, and stimulate your mind. If you want to subscribe to this newsletter, e-mail Lynne and put SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

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