Cutting Pain

Chava was 15 when she pierced the flesh of her hands and arms with a sewing needle. €œI was desperate to get my mind off all the sadness and confusion I was feeling, € she says, €œPart of me was thinking, I can €™t believe I €™m doing this. But the other part of me was grateful I was able to numb the pain on the inside because I was now focusing on a different pain €“ a physical pain on the outside. €

The deep emotional pain started when Chava was raped at 11 years old. €œI didn €™t know what to do with all that hurt, € she continues. €œIt just wouldn €™t go away. It kept growing and gnawing at my insides. €

As Chava matured, she gained a little weight, which added to her worries, €œI began to obsess about my weight and started throwing up three times a day. I actually got to the point where eating anything made me physically sick. € Unfortunately, Chava learned to juggle and eating disorder and an obsession with cutting herself.

Self-destructive behavior

Millions of teens are involved in self-destructive behavior. The majority are females, but the percentage among males is rising. And it €™s not simply a North American tragedy. Self-destructive teens live in every part of the world.

Perhaps you €™re aware of a student who €™s involved in self-mutilation. He or she may be known as a €œcutter. € No one simply begins cutting for the fun of it. Someone who cuts herself €“ or commits any self-destructive behavior €“ is trying to cover up a painful experience or is crying for help.

€œI have a friend who €™s bulimic, € 17-year-old Amy says. €œWe were involved in gymnastics together for several years. Her parents own the gym, and she feels a lot of pressure from them to be athletic and look [a certain way]. She €™s been raised in a Christian home and is involved in church, but she €™s under so much pressure to be thin and have everything in control. She throws up at least once a day. €

Amy is mentoring her friend, and together they are studying the lies that some young women believe: God doesn €™t love us; we have no value; God isn €™t good. €œShe €™s learning to speak and believe the truth against the lies of Satan, € Amy says. €œI €™m trying to help her realize that her battle is deeper than just not throwing up anymore or getting thin. There are deeper issues €“ spiritual issues. Until she believes the fact that she was made in the image of God, she €™s living a lie. €

Sources of pain

People who hurt themselves are denying the truth that they are God €™s handiwork. They believe they €™re useless; they feel they have no significance because someone has used or disregarded them. They €™re unaware of the greater purpose God has for them.

Accompanying this line of unhealthy thinking is the world €™s unrealistic, expectation that we should be able to perfect ourselves. When we can €™t, we assume something must be wrong with us. Therefore, cutting, eating disorders, drugs and alcohol become methods of self-abuse for not being €œperfect € or good enough.

Warning Signs

Don €™t assume that a Christian teen is exempt from self-destructive behavior. The world €™s lies are powerful. Watch for the following warning signs in teens:

  • Wearing long shirts when it €™s not cold (to cover scars from cutting or burning) and extreme modesty (doesn €™t change clothes in front of people or wears clothing that covers every area of skin.)
  • Disappearing quickly after meals (to throw up or take laxatives.)
  • A sudden withdrawal from friends and family to drink or take drugs.

How to help

Let €™s look at some dos and don €™ts for adults to help teens overcome behaviors, such as cutting:

  • Love the hurting teen. Don €™t be afraid to comfort her.
  • Encourage her to get professional help. Call Focus on the Family €™s counseling department at 719-531-3400, ext. 7700 for a referral to a counselor in your area.
  • Ask if the two of you can get together (if the same gender) at least once a week to read the Bible. Ask God to speak words of love and affirmation to her through your study.
  • Encourage her to journal or release her pent-up anger through physical activity such as jogging, slamming tennis balls against a backboard, biking or hitting a punching bag.
  • Never condemn her. She already knows what she €™s doing isn €™t right.
  • Avoid directing attention to the physical scars. She knows they €™re disgusting. Remember those scars have come out of great pain. She doesn €™t know how to accept herself, and she hates who she is.

It €™s up to us €“ parents, teachers, and ministers who are experiencing a genuine relationship with Christ €“ to take the hand of a hurting teen and walk her into a true understanding of God €™s love and forgiveness.

Background Information

Questions and Answers


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Other Things to Consider

RelationshipsBlended Families, Parents and Adult Children

TransitionsPreparing for Adolescence, Empty Nest