Redeemed: Be the Difference


How to help someone struggling with self-harm. Self-harm is scary – it’s terrifying actually. It sweeps you up and carries you away and doesn’t let you rest. But the scariest part is that you don’t even recognize the danger. Sometimes, it takes an outside influence to open your eyes to the truth.

My addiction to cutting wrapped me up and made me feel better for a little while; the hurt grounded my swaying emotions, giving me the illusion of safety. I thought I was helping myself.

[pullquote width="300" float="left"]I was running back and forth between reality and my imagination, never able to focus on just one.[/pullquote]

But the reality was just the opposite. In the back of my head I knew something was amiss and something terrible was happening, but I wouldn’t let myself find out what was so wrong. I was running back and forth between reality and my imagination, never able to focus on just one. Truth pulled at me with a steady yet gentle tug, but the foggy lies gripped me with sharp claws. It was a real and painful struggle to discover the truth.

In this situation, there is a tremendous need for a wake-up call. Someone needs to step in and pull back the blinds. The opportunity is there: as human beings, during such tumultuous times we crave a confidante, someone to whom we can unload our burdens and from whom we can receive comfort and advice.

This is the door through which you can reach someone who is suffering under the burden of self-harm.

And the key to that door? Love.

In my last column of Redeemed, I wrote that self-harmers need to be shown God’s love and purpose for them. I believe the best way to show God’s love is to be a vessel of that love.

1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are not our own. 1 John 3:18 instructs us to use those temples to love “in deed and in truth.”

We are called to love others with the love that God has given us, and sometimes that love is best shown through physical, concrete, earthly actions. But translating “love” into action is difficult.

How to help someone struggling with self-harm.

Here are a few important thoughts to keep in mind when interacting with someone who is hurting:

  1. Accept the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. People who self-harm are often hunting for acceptance. They change their fashion, speech, tastes, and everything about themselves in order to be part of the “in crowd.” When that doesn’t happen, they start to blame and hurt themselves in order to deal with that rejection. Your task is to show them that you accept them for who they are – with all their good qualities, mistakes, and especially their scars, physical or otherwise (Romans 15:7).
  2. Use every opportunity to encourage. We all fail and make mistakes. These failures weigh especially heavy on people who self-harm, causing them to believe that they really are worth nothing more than the dirt on the ground. You can change that. Congratulate every win or achievement, and speak positive words at every opportunity. Even when they fail, don’t commiserate: tell them how proud you are despite the loss. Encourage positive instead of negative thinking, and show her that she is loved despite her mistakes (Philippians 4:8, Ephesians 4:31-32).
  3. Love her no matter what. Tell her you love her and are proud of her. Let her vent to you and offer your shoulder to cry on. Tell her that you will support her no matter where she is or what she’s done. Send her encouragements via text or email and call her every once in a while to check up on her. She needs to know that you’re there for her no matter what hardships come her way and that you’re invested in her as a human being. Don't judge or discount her worth, but love like Jesus does.
  4. Follow through. You can tell her you’ll be there for her a thousand and one times, but you have to keep that promise to make it count. Love unconditionally, no matter the cost and no matter the pain – because that’s what Jesus did for each and every one of us.

You can be the difference between hurt and healing. You can build that bridge. All you have to do is let God show His love through you. Shine your light in places of darkness and let Him do the rest.

Image by Ellie DuHadway and Pinterest