Can relationships be repaired?

Sema Süvarioğlu
3 minutes

For years, in personal development trainings, we used to tell this well-known story to emphasize how important it is not to break hearts in relationships:

A master gave a board and a bag of nails to his student who could not control his anger and did not treat people well. “Every time you say a bad word, every time you break a heart, hammer a nail in the wood.” Some time passed and there was no more room on the board. But with this awareness, our “grasshopper” has become better behaved. This time, at his teacher’s suggestion, he removed a nail every time he got angry but managed to restrain himself. When there were no nails left, he went to his master with some pride. Although his master appreciated him, he pointed to the scars left by the nails that had been removed and added that even if the wounds opened once were closed, the scars would remain, so the right thing to do was to be very sensitive and try not to offend anyone.

Is this correct in terms of human relations? That is very true.

On the other hand, there is another story that I love very much.

The Japanese monarch’s favorite porcelain tea bowl, a gift from China, is broken. All the craftsmen in the country were invited to repair the broken bowl, but none of them could reach a result that would fully satisfy the ruler. Then another glazier came along and said, “I’ll fix it.” He carefully glued the bowl back together, but you could still see the cracks and fracture marks. He covered the marks with gold dust to make them even more prominent. In this form, the bowl is even more beautiful than before, resulting in the Japanese art called Kintsugi. Kintsugi art is based on Wabi-Sabi* philosophy. The Wabi-Sabi worldview, which we can briefly define as the acceptance of the imperfect and incomplete, advocates embracing its flaws.

If we evaluate human relations through this metaphor, if something goes wrong, cracks or even breaks, we can make it more valuable than before if we show the necessary care and effort.

The rupture is not an annihilation; it becomes a new, even more powerful way of being.

But they say it takes a lot of patience and skill to learn kintsugi.

Is this a correct assessment of the health of our relations? Yes, that is also very true.

Can two seemingly contradictory situations be true? It is worth some reflection. What do you think?

*I would like to thank my dear friends Ayşen and Selmin for introducing me to the concepts of Kintsugi and Wabi-Sabi.

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