“Who isn’t? Life breaks us. Then we fill the cracks with something stronger.”
—Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with golden lacquer, highlighting imperfections instead of disguising them. It literally means “to join with gold”. It’s an interesting philosophy, especially in the context of mental health. Most of the time, we seek to show a happy face to the world through social media, insist everything is fine when our loved ones express concern, and crack a little further when we hear friends joke about the hidden parts of our soul—confirmation not to dare show our true selves for risk of losing any semblance of normalcy and stability.
But kintsugi is a different approach. Kintsugi belongs to the philosophy of wabi sabi—that which is broken, simple, and weathered is more beautiful for being so. It is beauty in imperfection.
There’s a story about one Sen no Rikyū, considered the first to understand the core of wabi sabi philosophy. The story goes that once, when he was hosted as a dinner guest, the host had laid out an expensive tea jar, hoping it to be noticed by Rikyū. But instead, Rikyū was more intrigued by a tree branch swaying in the wind outside. Afterward, the host smashed the tea jar, upset. Others collected the broken pieces and through kintsugi, mended the jar. When Rikyū next visited, he noticed the jar and said, “Now, it is magnificent.”
I believe we are beautiful not because we haven’t been “tainted” by trauma. Or that we’re beautiful despite our weaknesses. I believe we are beautiful because of our brokenness.
Accepting our brokenness is not a death sentence, it’s the key to authenticity. To be loved for who we are, completely. To move freely in new relationships instead of being controlled by the pain and trauma of the past. To find connection in our low moments and worthiness in our highs.
To understand that now, because you are broken, you are magnificent.
Lee Atwood manages his private practice, Relevare Counselling, in Calgary, AB, and offers in-person and online services for mental health issues such as: sex/porn addiction, marriage and family issues, depression/anxiety, men’s issues, spirituality, and helping people on their journey of recovery and healing.