“That’s Disgraceful!” was the comment someone made to me, referring to the tattoos on a stranger walking past. I chanced a look — while the person in question did have significant ink, I saw nothing disgraceful about them — I saw harmless designs, no words, no curse words or offensive patterns. I saw in the artwork a person expressing themselves as they chose. It may not have been my preferred style; but it was also not my body.
I asked my companion what they found so disgraceful; unfortunately they were not able to articulate their position. They don’t like tattoos, don’t ever want tattoos, they didn’t even want to learn about that person’s tattoos meant to them; they merely judged them ‘disgraceful.’
I found this awkward, as I am biased — not only do I like tattoos, I have several myself. My companion had not realised this at the time. Each of my tats represents an important part of my life’s story, even if that meaning is not explicit to others. All of my tattoos carry within them a spiritual component – it’s a big part of who I am, and it’s reflected in this art.
For me, my tattoos are art which carry a story that I want to see and think about on a daily basis for the rest of my life. It’s not disgraceful to have these tattoos, rather the spiritual component to them reminds me of the grace-filled reality of my earthly life.
The tattoos provided an example for me to reflect on the larger issue of how we are perceived and assessed without our story necessarily being known. My having tattoos is no different from the person walking past; yet I had not been judged as harshly, I was not ‘disgraceful’ as I was known. Conversely, I wonder how often we judge others based on our own preconceived notions of the small amount we witness of another person’s experience – sometimes we’re not even aware that we are doing it.
Obviously, I would not want to be arbitrarily judged by someone else; and so my aim is to not to cast judgements like that. As a Christian, I hope that we can live out the law of loving all our neighbours, not limited by our preferences and restricted by our assessments, but intentionally seeking in others the beauty of a unique individual with a life story, beloved of God. I pray we all might see others less as ‘disgraceful’ and more as grace-filled.