A Broken Work of Art

By Brit BarkholtzAugust 7, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of my life dealing with brokenness.

I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone, so when I lost four classmates to car accidents in one year during my junior year of high school, the community as a whole felt this loss—and was broken.

I attended a small private college where a racist hate crime put our campus in turmoil my freshman year—and we felt broken.

I struggled through my sophomore year, trying to balance my own self-care and caring for my roommate who was battling depression and self-injury. When she attempted suicide halfway through that year, she was broken, and my friends and I were broken with her.

My junior year of college was marked by two sexual assaults in one weekend on our campus—one was my own, and one was of a young woman with whom I’ve never been able to reconnect with after our meeting at the police department. Both she and I were broken, and our community rallied around us in a “Take Back the Night” event, their hearts breaking with ours.

I now work for two churches, and when I’m not working, I am involved in a number of different activities and organizations seeking justice. I continue to see brokenness every day.

I am well acquainted with the theology that tells me that both I and this world are broken, and when I see it so clearly in and around my own life, it’s so easy to get bogged down in it. In those moments when the pieces seem most broken, I remind myself of a quote I once read spray-painted on a building in Los Angeles: “Mosaics are made up of broken pieces, but they’re still works of art, and so are you.”

How often do I—do we—forget this? We see mosaics and see beauty, but often forget the brokenness they came from. We see our own brokenness and forget the beauty that could be born from it. How many times have I, in my moments of brokenness, looked at my life and seen diminished worth and value? That’s a rhetorical question, but I will let you in on a secret: I fall into this trap of thinking that ALL THE TIME.

I’ve both vocalized and internalized a belief that I am a lesser person because of the ways that I’ve struggled with depression. I’ve both vocalized and internalized a belief that I am less deserving of love because of my assault. I’ve both vocalized and internalized an idea that everyone else has their lives more together than I do. And none of this is true.

We think of ourselves the way we see objects on the “as-is” shelf in stores, broken and being sold for a lesser value. But, my friends, you are SO MUCH MORE than an object discarded on a shelf. You are a beautiful creation, worthy and deserving of love and care and hope.

The Japanese culture has a type of pottery called Kintsugi, which takes cracked pottery and fills it in with gold. These pieces end up being worth more than the original, unblemished pieces. The original unbroken vases and pots look alike and evoke little response, but the Kintsugi embody beauty with their uniqueness. They are no longer objects but rather stories—stories that want to be told, stories that need to be heard.

Your “brokenness” does not diminish your value. It makes you human and makes you beautiful. This world is one giant mosaic, and it is a better and more beautiful place with you in it.

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Comments (12)

  1. Frankie Laursen

    These are beautiful analogies, thank you.

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  2. savannah

    “Mosaics are made up of broken pieces, but they’re still works of art, and so are you.”
    I’m going to have to write that sentence down and hang it up. Thanks!

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  3. Anonymous

    Every night, I look for a new reason to wake up the next morning. A new reason not to take my own life. Thank you for writing this and giving me a new perspective and a reason to live.

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  4. Taylor Dickie

    I just finished a weekend of telling people my story and often times I too feel these things but you’re perspective is inspiring and very much needed in my life and the world as a whole so thanks!

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  5. Ludmila

    is so wonderful. Really inspiring and honest. Thank you SO much.

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  6. Linnea

    Mosaics as an illustration of beauty arising from brokenness is my favorite comfort analogy.I’m glad someone else shares in my mosaic love and that you’re sharing it with the world!

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  7. Kiona

    as I was reading this it was like I took it from one of my own chapters from my story. I have always been a true believer in that you can find beauty in pain.. strength in our weaknesses….life through death….it’s something I often tell people when they are down and something I truly do believe however it is very easy to forget or rather become number…to the true meaning behind the words. thank you for reminding me. it couldn’t have come at a better moment as I stare into a path of brokenness and lonely roads for miles it seems like. Thank you for bringing your light into my dark day. I was beginning to think that maybe this was the one time life forgot to install a light switch

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  8. Jennifer

    I love the last paragraph!!!

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  9. Susana

    I found very interesting your conclusion about we are made or build by a lot of small pieces from each experience in our life, some of these pieces represent happy or sad moments, so much moments from our life but every experience we had makes us to be who we are today and we shouldn’t feel embarrassing because of that. We are what we are, maybe we chose to keep some pieces, maybe we don’t chose to keep other pieces but everything is here inside of us and we are beautiful and unique just the way we are. We are full of stories of every kind, but we are alive because of that, if we don’t want to collect stories we don’t want to live and it’s inevitable to not collect stories, we are humans and we need to other people to build ourselves, to build stories and just live.

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  10. Gen

    Another quote to remind myself to live another day. Thanks.

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  11. ier

    I too was sexually assaulted at a young age, but it was by my best friend at the time. It stung, it still does. I’m in middle school now, an eighth grader, and last year I began my struggle with self harm. I have been battling the emptiness as I call it for some time now, as long as I can remember and I’m not sure what it is. I haven’ gone to a therapist since I had a bad experience with them as a kid, and am not sure what to do. This story feels like a futuristic look on my own, and I thank you for writing it. I do not cry, unless in private, I do not complain of my injuries unless they are life threatening; such as a gunshot. I have never told anyone my pain, since it would just burden those I care for and instead surge through it, only to have it come haunt me at night when I’m home alone. This was beautifully inspiring. Thank you. Thank you so much.

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  12. shelby

    this is beautiful!!!!!

    Reply  |  
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