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posted Feb 11, 2012, 2:01 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Feb 11, 2012, 2:01 PM ]
By Zachary Francis

When I started this project less than a year ago, I expected to get good information on self harm. What I found at first was misunderstanding and misinformation. I should have known that when books on self harm are next to "kids who kill their parents" in the library, that I was in for a long journey to find truth on this topic. The first main piece of misinformation came from a doctor that we spoke with last summer. This psychologist had seen tons of patients who struggle with various forms of self harm (cutting, burning, etc.), and they said that this was a phenomenon that was mostly impacting only teenagers. When I questioned this, he responded by telling me that most adults do engage in a more acceptable form of self-harm such as bulimia, sexual promiscuity, etc. The first contradiction to this information came in January of this year when I talked to a couple whose daughter is in her mid-20's and is still cutting! "Interesting" I said. And then they referred me to someone who is cutting in their 40's. Now, I think...ok...ok...maybe this is just a couple of those freak things where people cut past their teens. But then I looked at (excellent website, I recommend it highly) and started finding various individuals who were in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties who are STILL CUTTING. Do most start in their teens? Yes, but not all. Some start in their 20's and even 30's. The point is I was told by a licensed professional that most people do not cut past their teens, but what I have found speaks something very different. And if they aren’t seeing the truth about this, what else could the experts not be hearing? Furthermore, what if these biases are going into the diagnosis that they give? Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. The doctor I spoke with last summer was great and he had amazing insight into the topic of self harm. The point is, he had misinformation even though he had worked with people who had hurt themselves for years. And if he had information that was incorrect, how many others of us do as well? When I looked at the website, I was surprised to find how many people involved in self-harm feel they are judged by mental professionals and doctors. Many...not a few but many...are not given pain medication when their wounds are treated in the hospital. How is that "loving our neighbor as ourselves"? Would we want to not receive pain medication? Furthermore, would this cause us not to hurt ourselves anymore or just to make us feel bad about ourselves, increase the shame, and cause us to want to purge our emotions again? The scripture that comes to mind to me is Matthew 7:1-3.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. "

Jesus spoke truth, but he never judged. He did not throw rocks at woman who committed adultery. Instead, He told the crowd, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And of course, no one did because everyone had their own planks in their own eyes. And when everyone left, Jesus said to the woman

"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” "
"No one, sir,” she said.
 “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Why do we sit there and judge people on what they don't understand? When I was hitting myself, it upset a lot of people. For me, sometimes I was just trying to get the voices to stop. I was trying to punish myself. Now granted, I grew up in an amazing home and I have since overcome it, but there are days when I fanaticize about hitting myself again. About punishing myself. Does that make me crazy? Am I not worthy of God's grace? Now don't get me wrong. We should try to refrain from hurting ourselves. Our body is a temple and I don't think that Jesus ever had it in mind to smash our body to bits with a fist, knife, or cigarette lighter. But why do we sit there and judge it? Why not just show love. The greatest commandment is to love our God with all our heart, soul and mind. And the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. But what is love? It is patient, kind, it does not envy or boast. Are we patient and kind when we dismiss someone that cuts? When we say "Just stop that?" When we don't listen to them. Are we kind when we don't treat their injuries with anesthetic at the hospital? When we give labels to people who harm themselves? Are we helping or judging them?