What Does the Bible Say About Self-harm?

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What Does the Bible Say About Self-harm?

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Recent years have seen a troubling rise in instances of self-harm as a result of the challenges to cope with and regulate the intense emotional pain, anger, frustration and anxiety that people are experiencing.

Self-harm—sometimes known as self-injury or cutting—is when a person acts out on the pain they are experiencing by causing themselves pain, or harming themselves in an attempt at catharsis. Unfortunately, while the act may bring the individual experiencing the issue temporary relief from their pain, it is often followed by periods of intense guilt and shame, and can become a spiraling issue that can lead to very serious consequences.

The reality is that self-injury, self-harm or cutting doesn’t solve the core issues the person is experiencing, it only causes more damage, pain and emotional challenges in the long run.

God loves you.

He loves mankind, and His creation so much that He gave His only begotten Son for it (John 3:16), so that by His pain, and His suffering, we might be able to be healed of all of the issues and challenges that we face.

As such, it’s important for us to consider what He has to say about the topic, and His love and concern for us as we seek to live our lives in accordance with His way.

In Genesis 1:27, the Bible reveals that mankind was "made in the image of God," meaning that we as humans were created in the likeness of, or as the word in Hebrew implies, carved like a statue of Him, a replica if you will.

As such, God gave His likeness to humans. There are no other organisms on this planet that are made in the image of God, only humanity. We are special to Him, and we have received a special calling.

When we purposefully do damage to ourselves, it is like we are defacing the image of God, and not giving the due respect to that relationship. Not recognizing the importance of His image causes us to cheapen that relationship, and the reasons for His creation of man. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul talks of how the body is a temple to the Spirit of God at this time, a dwelling place for the very presence of God.

We need to take that seriously, and not intentionally damage it in any way, whether it is through self-harm or self-injury such as cutting, or even things like drug use, overeating, and other damaging behaviors.

The other aspect of self-harm that is worth considering when it comes to God’s thoughts on the topic is His prohibition against similar instances in Scripture.

In Leviticus 19:28, God instructed the Israelites that they were not to make any cuttings in their flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon them. According to Manners and Customs of the Bible by James T. Freeman: “The custom of scratching the arms, hands and face as tokens of mourning for the dead is said to have existed among the Babylonians, Armenians, Scythians and Romans, and is practiced by the Arabs, Persians and Abyssinians of the present day, and also by the New Zealanders.” While this particular practice had its roots in mourning, or the regulation of intense emotions of loss, many cultures mingled these practices into the worship practices of their pagan gods.

In 1 Kings 18, when Elijah and the prophets of Baal have their showdown, 1 Kings 18:26-28 records their actions. The prophets of Baal cried out and leaped around the altar they had made to get Baal’s attention. When that didn’t work, they cried even louder and cut themselves with knives and with lances as was their custom.

Cutting and self-harm has been a part of the worship of false gods for millennia, and it has been a part of ancient mourning practices of cultures that do not know God.

God desires more for His people—those whom He has called and to whom he has offered eternity. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to take the sins, the pain and agony for us, and to heal us of all of our infirmities. 1 Peter 2:24 and John 16:33 indicate that Jesus Christ’s coming has enabled us to break the chains of the challenges that we face, and overcome, and it is through the stripes which He experienced that we can be healed of our infirmities.

Additionally, John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came so that we “might have life,” and not just a life of merely existing, or a life in which we just eek out our existence, but a life of abundance. He says that he came so that “they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” God the Father and Jesus Christ want you to have a happy, abundant life. A life of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Life won’t be free of difficulties, and stressors, but God desires that we build a relationship with Him to anchor us in the difficult times (Hebrews 6:18-20).

If you are dealing with challenges relating to self-harm, or self-injury, help is available. You can text HOME to 741741 to connect with a counselor to help provide healthy coping mechanisms in real time to the challenging emotions you are experiencing. Reach out and talk with someone. Reach out to your pastor, to a counselor, or even to your family or friends. You don’t have to do this alone. You are loved.