by Kevin Pauley
Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value against fleshly indulgence. - Colossians 2:23 HCSB
A young girl began wearing long-sleeve shirts all the time. She was very careful to not show her arms but one day, as she was washing some dishes, her father noted some cuts on her forearms. At first, she tried to say she’d simply gotten scratched by her playful dog but there was something about her tone that made her father keep questioning. Soon it became apparent that she was a “cutter”, someone who responds to negative emotions by making small cuts on themselves with a razor blade.
Although it may be difficult for some people to imagine, it is possible to become addicted to pain. The human pain center called the periventricular system and runs from the hindbrain (or medulla) to the forebrain. However, this system runs parallel to the pleasure center, called the median forebrain bundle. When we experience something pleasurable, the brain releases endorphins. However, the brain can also release endorphins when we experience pain, in order to moderate the degree of pain we feel. This is why some people (like me) experience great pleasure from eating hot chile peppers.
When faced with difficult or stressful circumstances, cutters will try to alleviate some of their negative feelings by cutting or scratching themselves enough to draw blood. Others will burn themselves. They feel the urge to get angry and lash out and instead they turn their anger inward and damage themselves. However, both psychology and the Bible agree that this ascetic practice is completely useless in resisting fleshly indulgences. It is an unhealthy coping mechanism. Not only does the difficult circumstance continue because nothing positive was done to ameliorate it, but it is compounded by the new habit and exacerbated by the need to hide and the guilt!
Sometimes, people with very dramatic personalities will injure themselves as a way of drawing attention. They will allow someone to “catch” them. If the person reacts strongly to what they are doing, then the cutting habit may actually be reinforced! This aspect of cutting falls squarely in the sin of pride or vanity.
It is important to note that demonic activity is closely associated with self-mutilation. If you are struggling with the sinful habit of damaging God’s body, tell someone. Ask for help. Don’t try to get out of this alone. Godliness with contentment is great gain. It is when our pride leads us to believe that we deserve more that we develop many foolish and harmful desires. Identify the passions that trigger the urge so that you can flee them. Work at kicking this habit. Freedom from this won’t just happen. Jesus died to liberate you from sin and its consequences. Make sure you are saved and then knead this salvation into every aspect of your life – even the urge to damage yourself.
"Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life" from
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Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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