FAITH & REFLECTION — Many years ago, a teenage girl came to speak with me. She asked me what she could do to help her friend who was “cutting.” I felt naïve and uninformed, because I had to ask her what the term meant. She gave me a brief explanation and sadly, I have been encountering the phenomenon, in one form or another, ever since.
Self harm, also called self injury, or self abuse has reference to deliberate acts causing harm to one’s own body. Cutting is the most common form of these self-inflicted practices, but there are many others including burning, pulling out of hair, self-flagellation, head-banging, ingesting poisons, etc.
CBC News recently reported that self-inflicted injuries are on the rise in Canada. In 2014, girls aged 10 to 17 accounted for 45 per cent of hospitalizations for self harm. The United States reports millions of instances of self injury and suggests that there are many more that are never reported or dealt with.
It would be easy to simply shake our heads, concluding that those who commit these deeds are unintelligent, senseless and hopeless. However, scathing judgments and swift marginalization upon those afflicted has never built character in us, or been very helpful to the hurting.
We could ask, “Why would anyone do this to themselves?” Motivations range from immature attention seeking to intense self-loathing. Catalysts for self harm include bereavement, various forms of abuse, past or present, a sense of hopelessness and crushing, often inexplicable guilt.
I have discovered, that those who cut, or injure themselves in other ways, feel a certain relief following the act. However, they later feel an even greater sense of grief, discouragement and depression. That is why I should ask, “What can I do to help?”
I have failed in so many ways, on so many days! It wouldn’t be difficult for me to judge myself worthy of any punishment I might receive, and/or inflict upon myself. But, it is at times like this, that I’m glad I believe in Jesus, because He has good news for cutters (and everyone else).
The Scripture teaches that we need not afflict ourselves for there is One, who has been afflicted for us. Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely He (Jesus) took up our pain and bore our suffering…” Two verses later (Isaiah 53:6), the prophet wrote “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned…to our own way…” Certainly someone who is actively engaged in self affliction has gone astray. However, the verse goes on to say in the second portion that “God has laid on Him[Christ] the iniquity of us all.” Right in the middle of these 2 verses Isaiah 53:5 says, “Jesus was pierced for our transgressions…by His wounds/stripes we are healed.”