When hearing that a young person is cutting, the common response is shock, confusion, & deep fear. All understandable. In the vast majority of cases, it is assumed cutters are suicidal when in reality the goal of cutting isn’t self-harm but a desire to feel alive. [Self-punishment is often a motive as well]
When hearing a cutter confess their activity, you can shut them down and turn them off of transparency by responding to them like they are insane & “stupid”. The truth behind cutting is often that a person feels so numb to emotion & dead inside that they simply desire sensation.
The rush of sensation (in the form of pain) is all they are holding onto for a sense of being alive & being human. Apart from the sensation of pain, they feel robotic & disconnected from human experience. Caring for cutters requires seeking to understand source of numbness.
The numbness can have a genesis in all kinds of things. Abuse, trauma, psychological troubles, depression, guilt, etc. one of the biggest mistakes counselors often make in caring for cutters is assuming goal is self-harm rather than a longing to experience life. The Gospel speaks to this.
Side note: cutters RARELY start w/ a knife or blade. Usually, cutting begins with something as simple as squeezing hands really hard so nails penetrate skin & pain sensation is experienced. Or biting tongue. Knives & blades come when introductory methods don’t cause enough pain.
Example: long nails & red marks where your fingers press when you make a fist can be a sign of someone who may graduate to cutting. Again, the goal is pain sensation to escape internal numbness. Grinding teeth, biting tongue, frequent paper cuts. Questions of “Why” are essential.
The Doctrine of God, the Psalms, & the Gospel speak to identity, belonging, root of Joy, the deadness or deceitfulness of emotions, and the unimaginable sensation of pain Our messsiah felt to win us our joy so that we do not have to seek the sensation of pain in order to find it; are all various categories that can be applied to the life, heart, & soul of the cutter and help them find a source that helps them feel alive even when they are emotionally numb.
Folks, the stats for cutting are alarming and on the rise. If you are in ministry around youth, you WILL encounter this. You may have cutters in your church now.
Link to orginal twitter thread below
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Christian counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He currently lives in Atlanta & is finishing an advanced M. Divinity in Historical Theology and ultimately desires to pastor.