Opinion—Emotional Scar Tissue
By Edward L. Foggs
Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.
Last month, February, ended the traditional annual celebration of Black History Month. The month is a time of both historical reflection and the highlighting of significant achievements of African Americans. Many are excited to note such spectacular achievements, as we all should be! Some, however, lament references to the past—especially the unpleasant past, and ask, “Why does it matter? Why bring up the ugly past?” Allow me to offer a perspective that may be helpful to our understanding.
Have you ever experienced surgery as the result of an illness or accident? After the surgery is completed, it is not uncommon to have scar tissue. As time goes on, healing occurs but it does not necessarily remove the scar tissue. However long ago it may have occurred, every time you look at the scar tissue you remember the time and occasion of the surgery. Should you meet others who have had a similar experience, you can empathize with them. You can respond to them with a measure of care and compassion and a sense of, “I know what it’s like.”
Thus, my reference to “emotional scar tissue.” Many minorities and people of color live with emotional scar tissue as they think back to racially based injustices. It can be tempting to think that all such injustices are a thing of the past. The reality is that the 21st century still confronts us with the kinds of racial biases and injustices that leave those experiencing it with scar tissue. The difference: it is emotional scar tissue. Some of us may have gotten over it physically and moved on to other worlds. In reality, however, whenever we see a repeat of injuries we once experienced, there is an empathy and caring that resurfaces because we’ve been there and know what it’s like. Emotional scar tissue is as real as biological scar tissue. The memory lingers and deep within is the feeling that we hope no one else ever has to have our experience.
Reflecting on the past should not be equated with “harping” on the past. I could write pages describing some of my own emotional scar tissue experiences, but that is not my purpose. My intent is to convey that emotional scar tissue can have lifelong impact and is not readily forgotten. The next time you are tempted to lament adverse racial references to the past, pause to think about emotional scar tissue.
Questions or comments? Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Foggs is general director emeritus for Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana.