By Paul Angone I was in a Grand Opening in 8th grade.

Sort of.

8th grade was my Acne Grand Opening. I burst onto the zit-scene with a pimple on the tip of my nose the size of Cuba. It was so big that rumors spread throughout my school that I had a tumor. Which of course I didn’t deny, because while you can make fun of the kid with a giant pimple, the kid with the tumor is off-limits. So I lucked out.

Sort of.

As I entered into high school, acne remained my constant companion. The only difference between middle school and high school was that I now had two thousand people to make fun of me for it.  And the tumor thing had run its course.

Acceptance is a weird concept when you hope no one looks you in the face. It’s hard to make friends when a good day is making it through unnoticed. Insecurity is a double edge sword: I desperately wanted to be noticed ... while staying completely invisible. I can still hear my desperate self now, screaming out to God to remove my teenage leprosy. Year after year after year.

Over the years, the acne has subsided, but the scars still remain -- both on my face, and somewhere deeper within. Spending years hating who you are leaves filthy stains that no quick-shot-spray will easily remove.

Every time I look in the mirror, I have the option to give myself -- and God -- a second chance.  Every glance is a choice -- who and what will I see?   Will I see that 15 year-old kid who carried around self-hatred like a Jansport filled with cement?

Or will I see something different?

Most of us grow up with something: zits, braces, small breasts, a hairy face, sizable love-handles, gangly limbs.  We all have “imperfections” that we grew to hate. We all carry scars, inside and out, that we’ve spent years trying to mask, medicate, or make disappear.  Usually with little success.

But I’m slowly learning if I can’t accept my own scars, how will I accept anyone else’s? How will I have grace for other’s flaws if I first can’t accept my own? You grow up thinking your imperfections make you a freak, but I’m realizing now these things make you human.

Because our greatest pains can sometimes be our greatest gifts. Scars are really just marks of understanding. They are visible connecting points. They are welcome mats that read, Yep, I’ve been there too.   So now, I celebrate my scars.

What are your scars?