Today, March 1st is National Self-Harm Awareness Day. You can read all about it on sites like this one, can read a very honest example of depression on Hyperbole and a Half. Post Secret is also a good place to find cathartic confessions and resources.
Personally, I had no idea this day existed. I’m pretty sure I realize it once a year after the fact, missing any chance to feel like I could help the cause or what not. But this year, somehow, I’ve managed to find out about it on the very day and refuse to waste an opportunity to tell a small story and speak a big truth.
When I was 16 I started cutting myself with a really cool little knife that my parents got me in Vermont. It was somewhere between a jackknife and a switch blade, and it had a cool fox on it. I really loved that knife, but I really hated myself and my life, so I decided to start cutting myself.
Actually, come to think of it, I really loved life. It was myself that wasn’t working for me. I went to church and youth group faithfully, but felt an incredible amount of guilt and shame for not being a better Christian. I was a smart kid, thirsty for understanding, and in a spiral of self-condemnation that would only get worse as I got older. One thing that I have found to be true about self-injury or self-harm is that you can do it without cutting yourself. One person I know would rub ice and salt on their arms to burn themselves without cutting. Another would develop a vicious cycle of anorexia and bulimia. Even drinking can be seen as a version of self-harm when done in excess.
I don’t have deep scary scars. I have light small scars. I stopped by the time I got to college unless I was really upset, it was a backup to make sure I was receiving the punishments that I thought I deserved. My thoughts were so skewed that I thought Christ wouldn’t mind if I made sure that there was enough punishment on myself for His sacrifice to be worthwhile. I didn’t understand the gospel at all.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:17
The burden and weight of sin isn’t for us to shoulder, it’s one that Christ has already taken up for us. He doesn’t ask us to feel guilt or shame, he asks us to let him shoulder what is too heavy for us, what drags us down into the pits of depression.
I think that it was when my best friend in the entire world discovered that I had cut myself, long after I thought I had grown out of it, that I knew it was unacceptable. The pain across her face was worse than the pain I had been going through and attempting to expose on my body, even just for myself.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30&31
The second is just as important as the first: to love your neighbor as yourself. People see this as a really good excuse to throw themselves into service for others, to treat others “the way they want to be treated”, which is more often than not translated into “treat others way better than anyone, even you, treat yourself”. But that’s not what it says here, it says to love your neighbor as you love yourself, which would imply that the same way you take care of yourself, the same way you minister to yourself, the same way you let Christ hold all of your life together by trusting Him, these are the ways that we should love each other.
In a nutshell, 1. There is no wound, physical or emotional, that Christ cannot heal. He meets us at our worst, even though He is the best, and loves us regardless. 2. Loving each other is never easy, and neither is loving ourselves at times. But it’s possible, through the grace of God, to be available to others as a safe haven, and to be kind to ourselves.