“Turn your wounds into wisdom”
– Oprah Winfrey
When I was still a young, know-it-all girl, I thought I would “gracefully” carry an old nightstand out of my room and down the stairs. Of course, I knew that if I took the drawers out, it would be lighter and therefore, easier.. So, I removed the drawers and began to pick up the bulky piece of bedroom furniture. Little did I know, the nightstand was roughly 15 years old and the metal track and slider that the drawer rested on was loose. There’s me, in my hulk-esque gracefulness, unaware of what was about to happen. I hoisted the awkward bedside table up and immediately found that it was much too heavy for me to carry on my own and so I sat it back down. As I began to walk away, I felt this sharp pain shoot up from my right ankle and into my calf. I winced and staggered back, almost falling down completely. When I looked down, I was shocked to see dark red blood pouring out of my ankle.
Honestly, I don’t remember much after this.The next thing I know, I’m sitting on the living room couch, holding a blood soaked towel to my ankle. My mom was on the phone with my dad, telling him she had to take me to the ER and he needed to get home right then.
You’re probably wondering how I managed to maim myself with a simple side table from the early 90’s. This is a fantastic question because even I don’t know how I did it. I’ll spare you from the carnage, I promise you’ll thank me. But, one emergency room visit, two numbing shots, and ten stitches later, I was back home again.
The best that I can remember, is that the drawer track and guide was loose inside the skeleton of the bedside table. When I picked it up with all the force of a buffalo, the track was liberated from its place on the inner framework, finding its mark on my ankle. It had to have profoundly sharp corners and edges. Dull corners and edges would not have cost me ten stitches and a lost memory.
See, today, approximately thirteen years later, I still have a little scar on my right ankle. Every time I see it, I am reminded about the time that I attempted to duel with an ancient nightstand and lost. Now, I am hesitant to pick up or move anything that might cause another ER visit.
You’re asking now, “What does this have to do with anything that I need to know?” Not everyone can gain wisdom from a battle with a dresser. I get it.
So, I’ll bring to you a teenage girl, somewhere between the east coast and the west coast, who made some terrible decisions that altered her life forever. She knew that she would never be the same, but, unfortunately, so did everyone else.
She did everything she could to keep the rumors from spreading, but it wasn’t enough. When she walked into a room, heads turned and whispers started. The day came when someone that this girl held in high regard, spoke out about her mistakes.
When she heard the words that were spoken, they broke the girl’s heart.
“She will never be what she could have been. She ruined her life with her choices and will never reach her full potential. She’ll never amount to anything.”
She was crushed. Despite trying her hardest to be better, fully knowing that her choices had consequences and that she would have to face them, it seemed as though it didn’t matter.
Never did she expect someone she trusted to say the words that cut her to the core.
The girl, broken by words, had an emotional wound that would take years to heal. She would face many nights, believing that she would be nothing, a nobody, and would forever be “that girl”. The girl let the scar grow into a callous, not wanting anyone to get too close. She would soon grow into an adult, carrying the mistrust that came from the hurt that cut so deep.
Friend, wounds are complicated. They hurt. They ache. They itch when they’re healing. Sometimes they ooze, so we cover them with bandages. If we leave the wound alone and allow it to heal, we’re left with a minimal scar that usually isn’t visible unless you’re up close.
Scars are a reminder that we have survived something painful.
Over time, the wound that once was gaping and hurting, will be nothing but a scar, a raised bump on otherwise smooth skin. This process is the same when it comes to emotional wounds, but only if we allow them to heal properly. If we forgive, if we can let go of the pain that keeps us awake at night, if we can move forward, even when it hurts to live a normal life, then growth and wisdom are bound to follow.
Healing doesn’t happen instantaneously, no matter how hard we wish it to. Without the healing, wisdom can’t be gained. Without healing, infection can set in and cause a greater issue throughout the whole body. The same is true in life. If we allow an emotional wound to fester, bitterness and anger are sure to follow.
Everyone has pain in their past. Everyone has a scar they can point out and remember the sleepless nights. An event, a song, and word, or even a person can trigger an unwanted flashback of a moment when you were at rock bottom. If we’re not careful, those “triggers” can send us into a spiral of toxic nostalgia. If we allow past mistakes and pain to be at the forefront of our minds, have we really learned anything?
Does dwelling on those excruciating flashbacks encourage growth?
The answer to both questions is a big fat no.
The past is for learning, not for living.
Wisdom is defined as, “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” In simpler terms, wisdom is merely the ability to make good decisions by considering and using past failures, accomplishments, and events.
When a small child reaches up to touch a hot stove, after they’ve been told not to, they burn their hand. They have now learned, the hard way, to be cautious around hot things. They now have a tiny nugget of wisdom to carry with them through the rest of their little life.
Wisdom is usually learned the hard way, much to the chagrin of the wise.
When we develop ourselves both physically and spiritually, wisdom is bound to follow. Wisdom can only be effective if you take what you’ve learned and apply it to situations in a way that adds value to your life and the lives of others.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” – Proverbs 19:20 ESV
Unfortunately, emotional pain is generally out of our control. In whatever form they come in, emotional wounds are usually unexpected, leaving one reeling for months, even years. Emotional pain is never easy to recover from. The wounds left behind by harsh words, thoughtless actions, and innumerable offenses are excruciating and never heal by accident.
We must be able to take the mistakes, the excruciating pain, and the harrowing memories of the wounds of the past and turn them into wisdom for the future. If we don’t, we’re only left with scars.
You never know what young girl will stumble to your doorstep, tears streaming down her face, begging for help because the pain is simply too much.
Don’t think for one second that your experiences won’t apply to whatever situation may arise in the lives of those around you. You will soon be able to use the wisdom gained during your pain to take someone by the hand and lift them up in their own pain. That is truly when your wounds are turned into wisdom.
Is any of this easy? No. Is it necessary for growth and change? Absolutely. Paul said it best in his letter to the Philippian church;
“I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.”
Philippians 3:12-14 NCV
While you may not be where you want to be, and you may not have the most illustrious past behind you, that is OKAY! Don’t cover the scars, don’t try to erase the wounds. Instead, turn your wounds into wisdom and grow baby, grow.
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gets understanding;
for her benefit is more profitable than silver,
and her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
and all the things you may desire are not to be compared with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
and in her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
and happy is everyone who retains her.”
Proverbs 3:13-18 (MEV)