Pottery and kintsugi

What the Ancient Art of Kintsugi Teaches About Redemption

By Monica Romano

If you’re human you’ve surely made mistakes; big mistakes, little mistakes, mistakes that may have cost you a friendship, a job, or your reputation. You may have inflicted pain upon yourself or others.

If you’re feeling broken, beyond repair, and unable to move forward after making mistakes, you’re not alone.

Can the wisdom found in a 15th-century art form help us move on from mistakes and find freedom and redemption?

In Japan, broken pottery pieces are restored with gold in a time-honored art practice known as Kintsugi which literally means “golden joinery.” This ancient Eastern philosophy views the flaw, not as an imperfection but rather a unique enhancement to the object’s overall beauty. These “veins of gold” are celebrated as a sign of strength and resilience in the transformed piece.

Kintsugi teaches us ways to reclaim our power during trying times and to free us from needless suffering as we make peace with our past.

Although Kintsugi’s multi-step repair process is extensive and requires patience and time, three important aspects can be highlighted to provide insight for accepting and embracing our flaws.

  1. Gathering the Pieces

The first step toward restoration is gathering the broken pieces. This can be the most difficult step for us to grasp after making mistakes.

We are often frozen with fear or regret and unsure of how to proceed. We continue playing the mistakes over and over in our minds like a movie where we have cast ourselves as the villain. We tell ourselves “stories” of how our mistakes are so bad and unworthy of forgiveness.

The Kintsugi artist honors the broken pieces by first sitting with them and acknowledging their value even though flawed. This step requires humility as we feel the cracks in our interior and survey the damage we may have done to ourselves or others.

  1. Reflection

We cannot move forward until we reflect on what has happened. This is part of acceptance and it doesn’t require us to like the outcome. This may take some time. Kintsugi is an art of patience. Some pieces take up to a month to be restored.

Be kind to yourself as you seek a path toward restoration and resilience. As the Kintsugi artist allows time to observe the brokenness of the pottery while resisting the urge to rush in to fix it, we too must sit with our cracks and do our best to detach from the outcome of the consequences.

  1. Restoration

After surviving hardships in life, you carry the residual scars of those experiences with you. Just like a cracked piece of pottery, you now feel vulnerable and exposed. But the cracks can provide opportunities for learning and growing.

Some actions may be needed on your part in order to heal as you honestly access the fallout from your errors in judgment and acknowledge your responsibility. Do you need to make amends to someone? Clarify a misunderstanding? Apologize? Do you need to allow someone you have hurt to express their feelings to you? Perfection is not required for healing to occur.

This step in the Kintsugi method includes filing and smoothing the seams to remove excess glue before the gold is added. Just as the glue and gold reconnect the broken pottery pieces, you are rejoining the parts of your fragmented self.

An essential part of healing is realizing that guilt and resentment over your mistakes no longer serve you and must also be smoothed away.

A New Creation

Kintsugi art is a beautiful reflection of life. We are all broken at times and must find ways to sit with our mistakes and redefine what wholeness looks like. Making mistakes is a part of life and we can also create something beautiful with the life we have.

As you carry the spirit of Kintsugi in your heart, may you find all the beauty in life’s imperfections.

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