I have different people, from time to time, write me and ask about their niece, daughter or friend who is cutting. I was asked for help today and I want to address it to help others. This is not a new issue but it's also not an old one. I think it's become more popular among teens as they grasp for answers. Usually at the root of self injury is an internal pain so great that they're finding a release in the "new" pain.....a pain that THEY can control. Often times, the pain they are dealing with is largely out of their control. The internal issues can be anything really. Some are incredible. Maybe they have suffered through sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Maybe they have lost a parent or a loved one and they are grieving. The pain inside can also be from anxiety, not fitting in, bullying or a combination of things. It's just whatever is in their life that is leaving them feeling out of control. It can be the deepest pain they have ever felt. They may not see the light at the end yet.
So what do we do? How can we as parents, friends, aunties and mentors help them? Here's some advice......
1. PRAY - I know this might seem cliche but without Christ there is no true healing. We need to bring this young person to the Father and lift them up in prayer. The enemy is real and is trying to destroy these precious ones. Pray for them. Pray for yourself....for wisdom, compassion and insight into their world.
2. LOVE - Be their friend. Reach out and love them. DO NOT TRY TO FIX THEM. This tactic never works. Only the Lord Himself can move the mountains of their heart to heal and put back what is broken. You cannot "fix" what is broken but you CAN be that confidant...that friend....that listening ear....that safe place. You can love them through Christ and walk this road of healing with them.
3. SEEK GODLY COUNSEL - Go to someone who the Lord has given wisdom to in this area. Maybe it's someone who has walked this road of self injury and has victory now. Maybe it's godly wisdom from a book or blog. Maybe it's your pastor at church. Whoever God leads you to, seek their counsel and insight.
4. DIRECT - The most difficult thing about cutting is that the person has to DECIDE to change. They have to want to stop. Cutting is VERY addictive. Every time someone cuts, the body releases endorphins which provide relief. For each time the emotions are high, the body craves this release. So as much as we cannot force an alcoholic to change, we cannot force anyone with an addiction...including cutting. We need to DIRECT our loved one to a counselor, a friend who is victorious in this area, to God's Word, to prayer....AND to a new way to handle pain.
5. OFFER NEW WAYS TO DEAL - There are a lot of articles online to help with self harm/injury. One of the things I learned, is that we can cope in new ways. You can offer new things for this person to do instead of hurt themselves. For example, I had one girl put rubber bands on her wrist so that every time she wanted to "cut" she could "flick" herself instead. It still stung but wasn't a dangerous action that could eventually kill her. Another idea is to have a piece of wood near by that they could carve into with a pen or pencil. One of the BEST ways to cope I have seen is talking with a counselor. Now, this is tricky because most cutters do this in private and in places no one will see. It scares them to admit they are doing it and even more so to talk to someone about it. BUT, if they are willing, a counselor provides a neutral party that they can talk to about what's going on. This is someone who can listen to their pain and get it out. I have seen much healing through a godly counselor.
I really hope this helps!! I know that for parents....discovering your teen is cutting...is shocking and heartbreaking. It is difficult to know what to do and where to go for help. We can't just look at our teen and say "STOP DOING THAT"!! That will never work. But we can come alongside them and go to the One who knows exactly what to do. Amen???
Love you all and hope you pass this on to someone who needs some wisdom. I have included the cover of this great resource! "Scars that wound: Scars that heal" is a great book about Jackie.....a girl who walked this journey.