“There is no new thing under the sun,” records the Book of Ecclesiastes. So, it is with cutting, a little talked-about self-injurious behavior. “Self-injury is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting…[it] is an unhealthy effort to cope with negative emotions..” according to the http://www.mayoclinic.com.
How should believers equip themselves to address this growing problem? To explain, “Millions of teens are involved in self-destructive behavior,” according to a March 2007 article by Susie Shellenberger in Focus on the Family Magazine. Some experts estimate that about 75% of self-mutilators are female, but males cut, too. Sadly this behavior hits closer to home than we would like to admit. At church services and Christian ladies meeting where I speak, there is sometimes a mom asking prayer for a daughter who cuts, or a friend worried about a teenage friend who cuts. Infrequently a cutter herself will ask me to pray for her. Of course, she doesn’t reveal she cuts, she just cries and hangs her head and wears long sleeves regardless of the temperature. However, I recognize her, because my own left arm bears the scars from once raw razor blade slashes made four decades ago as a hopeless teenager. “People who hurt themselves are denying the truth that they are God’s handiwork. They believe they’re useless; they feel they have no significance because someone has used or disregarded them. They’re unaware of the greater purpose God has for them,” writes Focus on the Family’s Shellenberger.
Besides, when you are hurting traumatically on the inside, whether from past abuse or perfectionism, it can seem your only release from the emotional pain is to hurt yourself on the outside. Research has even indicated that the chemicals released during cutting have an analgesic property temporarily giving the victim a feeling of calm. Cutting is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. For example, Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead.” In his Explanatory notes, theologian John Wesley writes, “Cuttings in your flesh – which the Gentiles did both in the worship of their idols, and in their solemn mournings.” While, Deuteronomy 14:1 states, “You are the sons of God you shall not cut yourselves…” Apparently, thousands of years ago, God didn’t want his children to cut themselves anymore, than He does today. Yet Jesus once said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” [Luke 5:31] Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, rather to save the world, and sometimes we must be saved from ourselves.
Coping techniques, like cutting and other self destructive behaviors including eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse can eventually become deadly addictions. God can free people miraculously when we pray, but He normatively uses a gradual pathway of freedom from habitual/addictive behaviors. For example, Dr. Thomas Holmes of Covenant Ministry Services, a Christian Counseling Center in Lima, Ohio, suggests that those addicted to self injury wear rubber bands on their wrists. When the temptation to cut [or to engage in another self-destructive behavior] becomes intense, Dr. Holmes suggests simply snapping the rubber band. Although, this will temporarily create a minimal amount of pain, it will also cause the person tempted to regain control. Combining this technique with Christian counseling, and praying for God’s intervention, along with accountability to a spiritual mentor can be helpful in battling self-injurious behaviors.
A valuable Website for information and support about self-destructive issues, along with depression and suicide can be found at http://www.twloha.com. [To Write Love on Her Arms] The physical scars are only a reminder of the deeper emotional pain that troubled teen is battling. If you or someone you love is self-injuring, remember there is hope in the God who can do anything but fail. But you have to take the first step, and be honest about needing His help.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and evangelistic speaker who is the author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors. Contact her through her Website at http://www.christinaryanclaypool.com