As “Dr. Muriel” I have received many letters from teens and twenties who are addicted to cutting or self-harm. This epidemic has stunned me! Through research I learned that 13, 000 to 30, 000 girls and women use this as a way of coping. Even Princess Diana of England turned to cutting as a way to cope.
When I started dealing with cutters, I went to the Lord and asked Him why they were doing such an awful thing to themselves. Answer came: “Ask them.” So I began to delve into the pasts of cutters and self-harmers, asking them why and when they had started. Well, a number of them had been raped or sexually abused, and they had found that cutting gave them a certain feeling of relief.
Why has this worked? I wondered. The first thought that came to me was that it was a form of self-punishment. Why would they feel relief in punishing themselves? Because of feelings of guilt that are assuaged when they do it. Why would they feel guilty? Because for some reason they blame or hate themselves.
When Martin Luther was young, he was taught by his church, “Do good works, do penance, humiliate yourself, and you will be saved.” So he often resorted to self-punishment in seeking to find relief from guilt. The relief was short-lived, as cutters have learned. But when Martin finally read in his Bible, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), he saw that salvation was a free gift of God, that Jesus had fully paid the penalty for his sins on the cross! Thus he was set free from his bondage. Then he courageously became a preacher of God’s Word, the father of the Reformation and the Lutheran church.
How does all this apply to the addicted, the abused, the suicidal, the depressed, the wounded, and the lost? Well, they too might have feelings of guilt about the past. Also they may harbor anger toward those who have hurt them in various ways even as the cutters may. This in turn makes them feel miserable, depressed, defeated, hopeless.
Why? Well, Jesus said, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).4
Unresolved guilt, anger, and grudges separate us from God. And God is the One who can give us peace that passes all understanding no matter what, if we walk with Him. I found that to be true in my own life. Even though I was often abused verbally and physically, the Lord gave me the grace to forgive my abuser again and again. And so I lived in my Lord’s amazing peace and was able to serve Him in many ways. If it worked for me, it will work for you–or a loved one for whom you’re concerned!