Today's posting will address the topic of self-injury and self-harm most commonly known as cutting. Self-injury or self-harm can be defined as an attempt to intentionally cause harm to one’s own body. The injury is usually severe enough to cause tissue damage to some degree; from superficial scarring to permanent major disfigurement including amputation or mangulation.
Cutting and burning appear to be the most common forms of self-injury we are seeing among teenagers in our counseling ministry. There are some common signs of self-injury you should be aware of:
• Wearing clothing that covers the arms, legs and trunk of the body when it seems inappropriate to do so. The self-injurer wants to hide the scars of their abuse.
• Having a razor blade, knife or lighter handy.
• Numerous “accidents”
Something you should be aware of is that cutting is always associated with a component of a larger problem. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, no step by step formula to follow when dealing with this problem. You might think that anyone who would cut themselves with a razor blade is nuts. Psychology wants to label this behavior an illness or a mental disorder, but in reality it is truly a spiritual problem. It can most certainly have medical complications (infections etc) it is not a "medical problem."
I hope this is an encouragement to you if someone you love is a cutter. Often times underlying the cutting is a relationship problem with parents or boyfriend/girlfriend, siblings or peers. The good news is the troublesome aspects of these relationships must be examined and dealt with biblically. A good Biblical Counselor can help you learn how to do that.
Many teens are forced into counseling by because their parents and they don’t want to be there. They don’t know the counselor and have no established relationship with them. Those who are forced to come usually they have no desire to change and it usually doesn’t go well.
Honestly parents, the best people to help your child are YOU! God didn’t give them to you for you to have someone else raise or deal with their problems. He gave them to you to care for, teach, correct, and train in righteousness and even to rebuke when necessary.
Some ways you can help them are by learning to be a question asker rather than a statement maker. If you do not believe your teen will honestly share their burdens with you I would encourage you to develop a habit of asking questions. Questions that relate to what is going on in their thought life, aimed at things they believe (not feel) and find out what they want and desire.
If you are not sure how to do these things, can I urge you to take the time and learn how? Many churches are now equipped to help you in this way as Biblical Counseling is taking hold and reclaiming the ground of soul care once again. I would urge you to take advantage of biblically based training that will equip you to help and minister to your child.
I would encourage you to follow biblical principles when dealing with self-injury rather than going the route of psychotherapy and secular counseling. Secular reasoning is contrary to biblical methodology. Self- abusers don’t have an illness that can medically be diagnosed; what they do have is a faulty coping mechanism that is truly a sinful habit.