One of the most common reasons that people seek Biblical counseling lately is because they have recently attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts. In a large number of these cases, the person needing counseling is a young lady around 12-14 years of age who has a recent history of cutting herself or doing other acts that result in self-harm. As common as this has become, it is important for Christians to seek medical and Biblical advice for those struggling with cutting and self-harm.
What is cutting and self-harm?
As the words describe, cutting is when someone takes a sharp object, usually a knife or razor blade, and cuts themselves, often on the arms or legs. Self-harm can be anything that someone does to themselves that causes harm. Self-harm does not necessarily always involve cutting, but despite what some people think, cutting always involves self-harm. Self-harm could be other actions such as deliberately drinking or taking drugs with the intention of causing harm to themselves or out of a desire to get back at someone else for a real or perceived injustice. In most cases, cutting starts out with non-life threatening cuts that bleed and result in scars.
Why do people do cutting or try to harm themselves?
There are a million answers to this one. However, many people start cutting because of some heightened emotional or Spiritual conflict in their life. Many, especially young people, express a feeling that they do not have control over their life or a close relationship with people such as their parents or a romantic partner that they once had. More recently, I have seen cutting and self-harm result from situations when parents have taken away the cell phones or limited the computer time for their child. To the child, their whole world has been taken away from them and they cannot communicate with friends or romantic interests, which leads to extreme distress.
Often parents will say that their child is just trying to get attention. While this may be true in some cases, it is not always the case. In many cases, the person expresses a strong desire to do something to demonstrate their power as well as experience the “rush” that comes with cutting. By this, I mean that most people that I have counseled that have done cutting have told of how the cutting resulted in a strong surge of energy and wave of pleasurable feelings when they cut.
The most recognizable reason for this is the body’s response to the sharp pain of deliberately cutting themselves. When they cut, their pain receptors stimulate the nervous system. This results in the adrenal glands secreting adrenalin as part of a survival reaction. This adrenalin causes the heart to start racing and a host of other things that many call an adrenalin rush, much like one would experience when drinking a beverage with lots of caffeine. This rush also gives them a surge of energy, hence the reason why high caffeine drinks are called energy drinks. Like many daredevils and extreme sports enthusiasts who call themselves adrenaline junkies, they develop a strong attraction or adrenaline addiction to the rush that comes from their cutting. Unfortunately, this often leads to more drastic actions including suicide .
Is there a Spiritual factor involved with cutting and self-harm?
Simply stated, the answer is yes. The Bible speaks of cutting in several places. In Deuteronomy 14:1-2 God specifically commanded that the Israelites should not cut themselves or shave off their eyebrows. Although some would say that this was an Old Testament commandment, God gave us the Spiritual reason why He did not want this done. It is because He said, “Ye are the children of the LORD your God:” (Deuteronomy 14:1). As a child of God there are many reasons why God does not want us to do this, but the primary reasons are as follows:
- As God’s children, He wants us to think and become like Jesus: Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:10-31; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:1-3
- When we are struggling with troubles, God wants us to seek relief from Him by praying: Romans 8:26-28; Philippians 4:4-9; James 5:13-18
- God does not want us to adopt the practices of non-believers: 1 Kings 18:21-28; Jeremiah 16:5-7; Jeremiah 41:1-7; Leviticus 19:28; Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
- Cutting is a common practice with those who are demonically afflicted: Mark 5:1-20
It is very common to find people with obvious demonic affliction actively engaged in cutting and often they pick their skin raw with their fingernails until it bleeds. Likewise, some go as far as cutting with another person and sharing each other’s blood.
What should I do if I or someone I know is cutting or doing self-harm?
Seek help immediately. If necessary, call 911 or go to an emergency room if you are engaged in or see someone else cutting or doing harmful things to themselves. It is important that professional help intervenes to prevent risk to life or limb. In many cases, the person will be admitted to a mental health facility, but it is important that they are somewhere where they will be safe. Likewise, seek out a competent Biblical counselor  that has experience working with people that are involved in self-harm or have suicidal tendencies. Many times, I get calls from people whose loved one is in a mental health facility because of suicidal or self-destructive behaviors. Addressing the person’s Spiritual needs is critical in these cases so it is important that every attempt be made to coordinate this aspect of their care with their health care professionals.
It is important for Christians to seek Biblical advice for those struggling with cutting and self-harm. Cutting is when someone takes a sharp object, usually a knife or razor blade, and cuts themselves, often on the arms or legs. Self-harm can be anything that someone does to themselves that causes harm. Many people start cutting because of some heightened emotional or Spiritual conflict in their life. The Bible gives us many reasons that we should not be cutting or trying to harm ourselves, primarily because we are children of God. Finally, if we know someone who is cutting we should seek medical and spiritual intervention right away.
Take a look at this related article: Suicidal Thought: 7 Biblical Tips 
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version