Caring to Restore
1 July 2021
Contributed by Alphonsus (not his real name)
Based on statistics released in 2019, 3 in 10 marriages are estimated to end in a breakdown. In 2017 alone, 7217 babies lost their lives through abortions. The cases of elder abuse are consistently on the rise, reaching 127 cases in 2019.
Shocking as these might seem, these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. They point to something much deeper – attitudes and beliefs towards these issues, and consequently, choices that flow from these attitudes and beliefs.
While the direct harm of these statistics are apparent, what is also concerning is the distortion of attitudes and beliefs surrounding such topics. For example, how many of us have heard the elderly being labelled as “a burden” or “taxing on the family”? In contrast, how many of us have heard about them being described as “a depository of values, culture and wisdom”?
As its core, these statistics indicate a type of brokenness, specifically towards relationships. Whether it is the brokenness of marriages or relationships between parents and children, this is something that we all have a crucial part in addressing, and ultimately restoring.
Kintsugi: Beauty amidst the Brokenness
Just as wisdom can come from many unexpected places, let us explore how the Japanese art form, Kintsugi, teaches us valuable lessons about family life. This art form, which involves the intricate re-joining of broken pieces of pottery with lacquer typically mixed with gold, silver or platinum-coloured powder, results in a unique and visually beautiful “new” creation. Here are 3 lessons that Kintsugi has taught Alphonsus about family life.
1. Brokenness does not spell the end, but the chance for a new beginning
Today, our typical response when something is broken is simply to throw it away. However, whether the initial piece of pottery was damaged by accident or in a moment of carelessness, Kintsugi shows us that this does not spell the end of its beauty. Rather, with some effort, and arguably a certain degree of learned skill, these broken pieces can be put together using lacquer to create something new, yet equally beautiful.
In our family lives, cracks and breakages may be formed over time. Sometimes, it’s through an unintentionally sarcastic comment. Others, it might be an insult thrown in the heat of the moment. Whatever the reason, relationships may end up being strained or damaged. However, rather than give up on and dispose of the relationship, these cracks can be the perfect places for virtues such as love, mercy and forgiveness to take root, eventually re-joining together what was seemingly irreparably damaged. Eventually, with enough work, a revitalized and unique relationship can be created.
2. We take pride in restoration and repair, and are not ashamed by brokenness
Alphonsus vividly remembers his grandmother meticulously scrutinizing mugs at Ikea before eventually buying 3 of them. At that time, these 3 mugs were meant to replace 3 cups at home which either have chips, deep scratches or have had their handles broken off. Funnily enough, we are conditioned by today’s social climate to be aversed to anything that is damaged, in disrepair, or basically imperfect. This seems to apply both our attitudes towards kitchenware, as well as relationships in the family.
Contrary to this perspective, the art of Kintsugi celebrates restoring what is imperfect. Potters proudly display the brokenness of the initial vessel, but also showcase the work and effort that had gone into fixing this brokenness. In our family lives, brokenness is bound to occur to varying degrees. From strained relationships to constant arguments over the same few topics, every family will have its fair share of conflict. However, Kintsugi invites us to honour this imperfection, and its restoration, as part of life’s journey, rather than erase it from our history.
3. Restoring what is broken results in a unique, new creation
Whether its pottery or relationships in the family, brokenness looks very different in different situations. This means that no two family relationships (much like no two pieces of pottery) can be fixed in exactly the same manner. What results is an original, one-of-a-kind relationship that can is unique to each family, and each family’s own story.
Caring to restore, so all may Flourish
This entry may have begun with a series of less-than-ideal statistics of the state of the family today, but this does not take away from the beauty, truth and goodness that family life can bring. For all these statistics, we will always come across stories where the strength of the human spirit shines through, and the power of unity and familial love is exactly what helps individuals through their struggles in life. The family should always strive to be the safe space where individuals can embrace their brokenness, seek healing and restoration, and be empowered to flourish as individuals even in the midst of life’s challenges.
We end this piece with a couple of questions for us to ponder;
- What is one area in your (family) life where you desire restoration?
- What are some things you can do to help bring restoration to this area?
- Think about an area of your (family) life which was broken in some way, but you and your family have made the effort to restore it. Have you given yourself the permission to celebrate this process of restoration?
Statistics taken from:
Alphonsus (not his real name) is a staff member at Catholic Family Life. In his free time, he enjoys asking excessive amounts of questions to better understand individual’s perspectives and attitudes towards common societal issues. He has a soft spot for young people and youth issues, and would like to encourage all who would listen to pursue their authentic selves, for he believes that it is in discovering who one is that one will be able to truly know who one is called to be.