All I was doing was listening.
Okay, so maybe it was more like overhearing, but I couldn’t believe my ears. The teens standing near me were talking about whether or not the others cut. It was like cutting was the new social networking thing, or even a secret society — a cutting society.
Long ago when I was a teen — it’s silly now — but there was a group in my high school that LOVED the New Kids On The Block. And if you didn’t really love that band, you couldn’t hang out with those chicks or be in their clique.
But cutting? This goes way beyond silliness of over brand-name shoes or trendy rock groups. It’s a deep-seated cry for acceptance. Any kind of object is used to pierce the skin to numb the agony of rejection that pierces the heart.
I’m not sure I’ll ever completely understand it, but stacking pain on top of pain helps them forget what hurt first. Suffering from loneliness and bullying, they feel helpless to control anything, so they turn to something they can control.
Meet Amy* and Dillon*
“Sometimes I hope to kill myself because I feel like there is nothing else to live for and I feel abandoned and mistreated. I have tried finding another way to cope, but I can’t.”
Amy started cutting at six years old because she was bullied and pushed around. She has other friends who also cut, but she tries to stop them.
Like Dillon. He was bullied by his friends and family, so he cut. When he told Amy about it, she began filling Dillon up with every reason why he should stop hurting himself. She told him how much she loved and cared for him. She said she would cut, too, if he didn’t agree to stop.
Dillon was an extreme case, and he even threatened suicide. Again, Amy replied with a massive overture of accolades to convince Dillon not to kill himself. Amy worked hard to get him to believe he was truly loved and cared for so he wouldn’t go through with it. She even told him that if he did it, she would too. He, in turn, tried to convince her why she shouldn’t kill herself. In the end, neither of them went through with their threats.
Ultimately, Amy and Dillon struggle with the knowledge of the Truth. They despair because they’re following anything and everything but the one true God, enamored with the praise of men to temporarily bind their pain.
“I thought that being in control of something that caused me pain would take away the emotional pain I was feeling.”
Kaddie turned to cutting to avoid the hurts in her life. I asked her what she hoped cutting would get her.
“Maybe a sense of freedom? I was in such a dark place, and I didn’t have much control of my life. So I thought by cutting I could control my life in some way. I know I wanted to feel something other than depression and darkness.”
Now, Kaddie is on the other side of cutting, thanks to her faith in Jesus. But before that, she was unable to make sense of her struggle in the darkness.
To Jesus-followers, the response to cutting is obvious. There’s only one fool-proof prescription for driving out darkness. It’s light.
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life’” (John 8:12, NLT).
A Death That Heals
As the struggles of growing up bear down, and attacks from peers encompass them, these poor teens are writhing in agony. They just want to escape the despair, the loneliness, the darkness, even if it means using pain or even death.
A piercing and death does in fact rescue souls from darkness, but not our own death. Jesus was pierced and died to give us hope, to give us life, and to bring us light.
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT).
People who cut need the death of Jesus for healing and rescue from darkness. Actually, we all do, and we all need constant reminders of this truth.
I won’t stop taking the message that Jesus saves to these teenagers because I know we literally cannot live without it. And I’ll keep listening — or even overhearing — so I can give grace to the hurting. I pray they would recognize and accept Jesus as the ultimate healing salve for their wounds.
The answer to the pain of loneliness and feeling unloved by people is knowing the acceptance and love of Jesus. He alone gives meaning to our lives — both in joy and in pain.
*Amy and Dillon’s names have been changed to protect their identities and families.