Last week I wrote about how it is in our collective brokenness that we find our true humanity. Today I’d like to continue exploring the idea of brokenness a little further.
First, it might be useful to unpack what we mean by “brokenness” (or, at least, what I understand it to mean).
We often think of brokenness as a place we come to either when we’re faced with the consequences of our own actions or when the actions of others, or events beyond our control, leave us wounded and in pain. This is, I think, an entirely valid and appropriate use of the word “brokenness”: sometimes we are broken by the disastrous consequences of our own poor choices, by the actions of other people, or by a host of other seemingly random causes collectively known as “life”.
However, there is also another sense of the word “brokenness”, and it is simply this: that we are all wounded, and so we are all broken in various ways.
Some of the wounds we carry we are well aware of, maybe because we sustained them in some terrible experience that we will never forget, or perhaps simply because the pain of them is so great that it continues to dominate our world. Other wounds are buried under many layers of self-protective armour. Either way, and however well we might appear to mask it, there is brokenness in all of us, deep down.
So, all of us are or have been broken in some way. The only difference is that some of us know it and others don’t.
Often, it takes an experience of the first kind of brokenness to bring us to a place where we can acknowledge the second kind. In other words, it often takes an intensely painful crisis to bring us to a place where we become aware of – or are prepared to recognise – the underlying low-level brokenness we’ve been carrying around like heavy baggage for years. For me, it took the painful and humiliating admission that I had developed a drink problem to drag me to a place where I was open enough, and my defences were lowered far enough, for me to begin to be able to see and name the wounds I’d been nursing, some of them since childhood.
This brings us to two more things I think we can say about brokenness.