My friend and mentor, Walt Mueller, wrote a series of blog posts this week on cutting, which got me to realize that I’ve never adressed this issue online. He’s far more qualified than I am to address this difficult and tragic issue, so I’d like offer just a few of my thoughts and then encourage you to read his posts:
What is Cutting?
“Cutting” is when a person uses a sharp object (like a razor blade or a knife) and cuts himself enough to draw blood. Cutting is usually done on the wrist, forearms, or stomach – usually somewhere that’s easy for the cutter to access but not easy for others to notice. It’s important to realize that cutting is not the same at attempted suicide, and most cutters are not suicidal.
Why Do People Cut?
Obviously, this question is the subject of many books written by professionals and can’t be fully dealt with here. In one of Walt’s posts above he quotes a teen as saying, “I feel like there’s something terrible inside me that I have to get out any way that I can. I think that’s part of the reason why I have to bleed. Afterwards, I feel cleansed. I feel like whatever was crushing me before has been removed. I feel calm and in control.”
People often turn to cutting when in order to either “feel something” when everything else in life makes them numb, or in order to be “in control” when everything else in life is completely out of their control.
The Hope Cutters Need
Clearly, these are people who are in great turmoil, pain, and confusion who are in need of the love of Christ and Christian hope. Too often, cutters are simply referred to as “these people,” as if they’re just someone out there, but not in my group of friends and acquaintances. I also want to be careful to make it clear – I’m assuming there are students in my youth group who have cut themselves. The statistics simply lead to that conclusion.
As parents and youth workers, we need to keep this in mind. Cutters can be people who might otherwise seem fine, in control, and happy… but there’s more turmoil under the surface than what we see on the outside.
Ultimately, cutters need what we all need: the love of God poured out for us through Jesus Christ. We live in a broken, sinful, fallen world where sin corrupts relationships, lies are being sold as truth, and pleasure is promised to anyone who simply does whatever they feel like doing.
If you’re a cutter, here’s what I want to say to you:
The hope we have through Jesus Christ may not “fix” your family, your friends, or the broken relationships that have caused you so much pain. Jesus saves, redeems, and heals – but that doesn’t mean it’s all an instant fix and that your life will suddenly become easier. What Jesus does promise is God’s love, that He will change YOU so that you become more like Christ, and that when all is said and done, you can trust your life to Him.
God’s love for you is so great that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be cut for you and killed on the cross – he took the pain you feel onto himself, he saw the pain and abuse you’re trying to get control over – and he died in order to judge and bring an end to sin and all its effects. By confessing your sin and your need for Jesus and declaring your trust in Him and what He did on the cross (and in his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven, where he is today), then he has covered you with his holiness and is with you always. Learn to trust and obey him. Read the Bible and learn about the hope and joy and peace He promises to give, even if the people around you are still a complete mess. He may not pull you out of the storm, but he will give you strength to live through it.
- Hope and Healing for Kids Who Cut, by Marv Penner
- Help, My Kids are Hurting: A Survival Guide to Working With Students in Pain, by Marv Penner
- The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers In Crisis, by Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock
- The Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis, by Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock