When we look at the lives of others, we oftentimes think their lives are perfect. It’s easy to crave that sort of beautifully planned masterpiece, where colors flow seamlessly one into the next, bursting with radiance and refinement, without a hint of failure or fault. On the contrary, when we look inward, it seems that failures and faults create the cracks in which the tapestry of our own life appears to have been unraveled or charred, torn at the very seams that once proudly held it together. We see our own canvas as a failed project, a page that was once blank with endless possibilities but now appears ruined by stains of mistakes, pains, and trials; our life that was once a beautiful and strong ceramic bowl has been shattered into a million pieces, broken with no hope for repair.

Is the brokenness the end? Or is it the beginning?

What if you could take those broken pieces from your life, reassemble them and make them into something better? What if each trial, each mistake, and each painful experience could be used to create a new masterpiece, completely different than the one you originally planned, but even more beautiful?

Kintsugi, a popular Japanese art form, proves that art, and life, is all about perspective. Translated as “golden joinery”, kintsugi is created by taking broken pieces of pottery and lacquering them with powdered gold, silver, or platinum to create a new piece of art. Instead of disposing of an object after it breaks, this art form treats the breakage as part of the history of the object, honoring it as part of its individual legacy. The brightly colored lacquer chooses to highlight the breakage, showing that the breakage is a critical part of the finished product; after all, it would not be beautiful or complete without each broken piece. In order to apply a kintsugi outlook in our lives, we must take three steps: accept the brokenness, embrace the growth, and remember the journey.

Accept the Brokenness

We must first accept the brokenness. Life is messy. The difficult times are unpredictable and inevitable; things that feel safe and whole will break, and they won’t break evenly. You never know how a trial will change the way your life looks on a daily basis; these trials will continue to shape and reshape your life, giving you some pieces and taking away others until you are left with a pile of broken bits that do not fit together the way they once did. It’s what we do with our brokenness, these broken pieces of ourselves, that will ultimately define our lives. We have two choices - to let the brokenness define our life as unusable waste, or to take the time to turn the broken pieces into something beautiful.

Embrace the Growth

In kintsugi, making broken pieces beautiful is no easy task; it requires time, effort, and dedication as you slowly lacquer the pieces together, figuring out how to make the broken pieces fit in a way that will eventually create something beautiful. In life, this lacquering process can be seen as we embrace our own personal growth through our trials. Embracing the growth is oftentimes the hardest part, as growth requires us to stretch beyond the limits we set for ourselves. The growth we experience as a result of working through adversity, as painful as it may feel, is the most beautiful part of the trial; taking all of our broken pieces and binding them together to create something new helps us develop resilience, strength, and self-respect. Oftentimes, this growth could not have been achieved had it not been for the trial. The perseverance required to create beauty from painful brokenness is priceless. It is gold.

Most of the time, the lacquer used to bind the bowl together is gold; the significance of the color gold, which is often associated with wealth, prosperity, and quality, shows how we should view this growth in our own lives. If you have the desire, will, and determination to piece your life back together after a trial, the growth that you will experience is gold. While this gold may not equate to monetary wealth or social prosperity, it will equate to something much more important - a wealth of self-love, emotional prosperity, and the highest quality of strength you have ever known. Furthermore, embracing the growth, or the gold lacquer, and putting your life back together piece by piece will continue to make you into the unique person you were meant to be. You are not just another plain bowl sitting on the shelf; you are strong, you are resilient, and you are writing your own story that is completely different than anyone else’s.

Appreciate the Journey

Kintsugi, when completed, proudly shows both the broken pieces and the gold lacquer that bound it back together. It embraces the pieces that were originally deemed as broken but eventually became the parts needed to create a beautiful piece of art as well as the elegant lacquer that has made it whole again. Likewise, we should be proud of our pasts and choose to honor the messy broken pieces, the growth we experienced, and the newfound strength that continually shapes us into better people than we were before.

When we experience trials or brokenness in our own lives, we may think that our perfectly planned masterpiece is ruined; instead, we should see our lives as kintsugi, and embrace the imperfections, scars, and adversity we encounter along life’s journey. Trials and brokenness may not be planned, but if we learn to embrace them, they can make our lives more beautiful and meaningful instead of turning our lives into a pile of broken pieces.