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posted Mar 13, 2017, 6:33 PM by Susannah Francis
In today’s world, we always want to point out a reason why someone acts a certain way. If they are depressed, we may ask if someone has died recently. If they are stressed, we might ask how their work life is going. Indeed, with people who self-harm, we find most of them hurt themselves to deal with some tragedy in their lives. But when we meet someone…should we assume that? What if we can’t find a tragedy that is the source of their pain…the source of their desire to self-harm? Here are a few examples below based on real life situations of people who self-harm but don’t fit in the “box” of someone who has a very tragic past to deal with.
  • Marcia seemed to have everything going for her. A music prodigy, she was hotly pursued by many prestigious colleges, all offering rich music scholarships. She was also supported by her parents who helped to promote her talents in any way they could. These parents were always at her recitals, clapping loudly. When she turned 10, her parents let her name the baby to prevent jealousy. She seemed to have good, supportive parents as well as lived in a stable home. At the age of 16, she began to cut. 
  • Ginny grew up in a missionary home. At an early age, she moved to Russia. And though her parents were busy doing great work for Campus Crusade for Christ, they always took time out for Ginny. Showing her love…making her feel included in their ministry work…talking to her about what great plans God had for her. But, at the age of 15, she started to drink heavily and burn herself with a cigarette lighter. 
  • John grew up in a loving home. And though he did witness his parents fight a lot, he was always shown attention by his mother. “You can be anything that God calls you to be,” she always told him. She always supported him in every way and yet, at the age of eight…he started punching himself in the face. 
We often think of people who self-harm as coming from tragic environments of abuse, trauma, neglect or control. But what about children who did not come from those environments? Does that mean that there is something traumatic in their past that we don’t know, or could there be something else about them that give them a tendency towards self-harm? It makes sense when a husband finds out their wife is cutting if he also learns that she was sexually abused by her father since the age of five. It makes sense for a counselor to find out someone burns themselves after they hear the neglect that this child experienced. But what if we can’t put it in that box? What if it’s similar to the cases of John, Ginny and Marcia? What do we do with that?

“They obviously have been abused in some way.” Is the simple answer. And that could be the answer, but what if it’s not.

When we have been researching self-harm, we have found many who are emotionally sensitive. Some are so sensitive to their environment that it actually hurts their skin to wear certain types of fabric or can think a room is very noisy when there is a small conversation happening on the other side of the room. We have seen people who are sensitive in the spiritual realm to angels and demons…sensitive in such a way as to sense things that we don’t sense…don’t perceive. Can any of those things be traumatic enough to the point of leading someone to self-harm, even if it doesn’t make sense to us?

What does God want us to do when we encounter someone like this. James 1:19 states, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”. Too many times we make conclusions about people before we begin to listen about them. “You are a cutter so that means you are x, y, and z?” If we listen to them talk, might we find out their history…their struggles…how they’re feeling…if they are sensitive to their environment…if they have always been this way for no apparent reason. And if we do listen, might that affect how we approach the situation?

Philippians 4:5-6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” What would happen if, instead of coming up with our own conclusions, we seek the Lord in helping someone? Rather than coming up with an answer that we think would help, we stop…begin to pray…petition for them…with no conclusions…saying “Lord, I just found out my friend cuts and I don’t know why…please show me how to help them.” Seeking God first can help so many in these situations. Perhaps the answer is getting our face out of the science book, philosophical text, medical journal and into His book, the Bible, His presence…and asking Him to please help in this unexplainable situation.