Self-harm is defined as an act of inflicting physical pain to oneself. It can include cutting, burning, or hitting oneself. It can also be done in more subtle ways, like depriving oneself of sleep or food. Although some self-harms seem minor and relatively harmless, they can reflect underlying mental health issues and can become serious if left unchecked. Fortunately, the Bible offers a unique perspective on self-harm and offers pathways of accountability and healing.
The Bible’s Perspective
The Bible speaks directly to the issue of self-harm and its consequences. The book of Proverbs says, “He who wounds himself will be wounded again” (Proverbs 18:8). This warning suggests that those who inflict pain on themselves as an outlet of some kind of emotional turmoil can only perpetuate the cycle of wounding. Ultimately, it is not a clear remedy for underlying pain and trauma.
The Bible also speaks about living in a state of joy and peace. This is in contrast to the feelings of despair, loneliness, and guilt that can drive someone to resort to self-harm. The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Paul is reminding us to take delight, not in harmful behaviors, but in our relationship with God and the power of His Spirit. Despite any emotional chaos, our ultimate source of rest and peace can be found in Him.
Moving Past Self-Harm
Self-harming can be dangerous and can pose a serious risk to one’s health. Seeking professional help is essential, as it helps to provide an understanding of why self-harming happens and the best way to address it. It can also be helpful to pursue biblical counseling. During this process, an individual has the opportunity to explore and process their thoughts and experiences in the presence of a trained, spiritual mentor. Through this counseling, individuals can observe their triggers for self-harm and develop better coping skills when faced with them in the future.
Alternatively, a person can also seek solace in scripture and in prayer. Reading timeless truths, like those found in the Psalms, can give a person strength to move past the hard times. Praying and building a regular habit of worship can also provide peace and joy amidst a chaotic world. As an individual grows in their faith and commits themselves to devotional practices, they can develop healthier ways to handle their emotions and identify less harmful alternatives to self-harm.
Encouragement for Those Who Self-Harm
The power of compassion should not be overlooked. Inviting another person into the process of healing can be immensely comforting. The Bible speaks of comfort being shared between individuals and how it can provide even deeper healing. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Encouraging a person to express their feelings, fears, and insecurities can be an incredibly helpful act of support. Moreover, one should remember that, even if it goes unseen, there is strength in their story and that God meets them in their struggle, regardless of the pain.
Fostering a Healthier Mindset
As a person commits themselves to a journey of healing, it can be incredibly helpful to learn to be kind and gentle to oneself. Rather than being harsh and judgmental, speaking bravely and positively to oneself is a first big step in putting down self-harming behaviors. Additionally, cultivating healthy relationships with those who are supportive and encouraging can help a person to reframe the way they view the world and how they view themselves.
Healing is Possible
Contrary to some popular narratives, healing from mental illness and its associated behaviors, like self-harm, is possible. For example, Psalm 41 reads, “As for me, I said, “Lord, be gracious to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.” Here we see how an individual entrusts God to bring them out of a broken place and into a place of restoration. Ultimately, it is only in the grace of God that true and lasting healing can occur.
Encouraging Professional And Biblical Support
Overcoming self-harming behaviors is difficult, but it is possible. Fortunately, there are many qualified professionals and certified counselors that provide practical advice and care to those who need it. It is also helpful to reach out to trusted friends and family members, or to a church or ministry partner, who can provide uplifting advice, listening ears, and encouragement.
It is crucially important to understand that self-harming behaviors come from the inner struggle of a person who needs guidance and understanding from both God and people. Learning more about what the Bible has to say about self-harm is key to achieving healing on the inside, ultimately leading to a healthier mental and spiritual life.
Dealing With Unhealthy Patterns and Habits
Since underlying issues can drive one to self-harm, it is essential to properly address them. For some people, getting to the root of the source can be overwhelmingly difficult. Nevertheless, with time and under the guidance of a professional and a leader in the faith, a person can develop the skills needed to have healthy patterns and habits.
For instance, scripture can be powerful medicine to empower an individual with godly values and perspective. When an individual is saturated in God’s ways of thinking, they can be liberated from unhealthy thought patterns and understand that they have a purpose and have been chosen by God.
Focus on Positive Outlets
Finally, in seeking to move away from self-harming tendencies, one can increase their focus on healthy and positive forms of expression and discipline. Exercising, art, journaling, music, and creative outlets can all be helpful in expressing emotions and working through them in order to move past them. These activities can help to create an environment of healing and foster personal growth and understanding.
A Path to Wholeness
The Bible offers undeniable evidence that God has provided us with an opportunity for full healing and a path to lasting wholeness. When we look to scripture for guidance, we can understand that God looks upon our struggle with love and compassion, not judgment or condemnation. Even though it can be incredibly difficult to face at times, in faith, there is a future, a place of hope and encouragement available.