“I’ve been cutting since I was fifteen!” Monica was seventeen when she shared her secret with me. She called it a “very real nightmare from which she could never seem to awake!” Sometimes she cut her arms, other times her legs. Monica was really good at hiding the scars, at least the ones from the knife. Her self-abuse might’ve been a secret, but her pain wasn’t. The sadness in her eyes gave her away. If anyone was really paying attention, they would’ve seen how lonely, broken, and insecure she was just by looking at her.
Kendra had secrets too! I met here while speaking in Texas. She was on staff at a camp where I speak each year. A college student, Kendra loved working with teens and loved summer camp. “I can’t imagine what people would think if they really knew about my secret,” she told me in a soft whisper. Kendra was twenty-one and in a leadership position. But, she didn’t feel like much of a leader. She never told me what her secret was. But, from other comments she made to me, I’m sure she was talking about self-harm. It was destroying her confidence. And, I knew, most likely, it was only a matter of time before it would destroy her influence too.
Madison told me that her secret life of cutting began when she was in middle school. She said, “For a while, I only cut when I was in my bedroom or bathroom. But, then I started cutting at school too. I’d go into the bathroom and lock the stall door and cut. School is so stressful and people can be so mean. Cutting at school became an escape, a moment to feel something…to feel better about the day when the day was going really bad.”
We all have secrets. We all have things about ourselves we try and hide from others. That’s just the way it is. The reasons for hiding our secrets are many. We don’t want to be embarrassed, or we don’t want people to see how vulnerable we are or how much we’re really hurting. Even us guys have secrets, believe it or not. And, we keep them for a lot of the same reasons you do. I remember in high school having a secret. I was shy and extremely under confident. I wasn’t very athletic. I was skinny, super skinny. I mean turn-me-to-the-side-you-can’t-hardly-see-me skinny. My older brother was just about the coolest, most popular person on campus. I always felt like I was nothing compared to who he was. He made A’s with little to no effort. I worked hard to make average grades. Everyone on campus spoke highly of him. It often seemed that most teachers on campus didn’t even know who I was. He lettered in football, track, basketball and cross-country. I never played any sport for any team at my high school. And, then there was my face. I had so many pimples through most of high school that you could have played connect-the-dots on my face. Everybody could see those things, so they were never secrets. But, all this stuff was what caused my secret. I would stare into the mirror and hate what I saw, and before long I hated myself. This was a secret that I carried around for years.
So, how did I get past it all? Well, I wish I could tell you that one day I just woke up and felt better. I didn’t. But, I did get better over time with the help of my parents, friends, and God. I eventually learned to feel better about myself, and to accept the things about me and situations around me that I could not control or change. You want to know the thing that really made the difference in it all? Me.
Yes, my parents were always very encouraging to me and supportive of me. My really close friends were there to talk through it all with me. And, of course, God’s Word was a huge source of help to me. But, when I say the answer was “me,” I mean that I finally had to make the choice that I was no longer going to settle for suffering. I finally made the choice that I was no longer going to wallow in my misery concerning the things about me that I didn’t like. And, most importantly, I finally stopped buying the lie and started believing the truth! This is exactly what you will have to do too. If you really want the self-abuse to stop, if you really want the flow of blood to stop, and if you really want the pain to stop, then you have to stop buying the lie and start believing the truth.
You and I aren’t the only two people who’ve bought the lie. Actually, every person who has, is, or will walk planet earth is guilty of buying the lie. The lie has been around for a very long time, actually, since the beginning of time. The lie was first introduced in a place called the Garden of Eden. In this garden lived Earth’s first humans, Adam and Eve. The Garden was perfection times ten! Adam and Eve didn’t have a care in the world. God made them, and God gave them everything they would ever want, need and more. He only had one rule. The rule: “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.” (Genesis 2:17 MSG) Pretty cut and dry, don’t you think?
Sadly, Adam and Eve didn’t follow the rule. Here’s what happened:
“The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”
The woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’” The serpent told the woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” When the woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything! —she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6 MSG)
Satan, in the form of a serpent, lied to Adam and Eve, and they bought it. How did he lie? Satan knew the truth about Adam and Eve. He knew the truth that God created them for a very specific purpose. He knew the truth that if Adam and Eve obeyed God, they would have a most amazing life. He knew the truth that God wanted a very intimate relationship with them. And, Satan also knew the truth that everything would change if he could just get Adam and Eve to buy the lie.
The lie: God isn’t enough.
Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God wasn’t enough for them – – enough peace, enough satisfaction, enough fulfillment, enough security and enough love. Adam and Eve didn’t know it at the time, but when they took a bite of the forbidden fruit, they were actually making the first choice of self-abuse. Satan knew this, but they had no idea that once they said “no” to God’s truths and “yes” to Satan’s lie, what they were really doing was opening the door to pain, disappointment, fear, anxiety, and loneliness. Everything changed that day for Adam and Eve. One lie changed it all for them, and for you and me too – for everyone! Ever since, at one time or another, we’ve all bought the lie, and this is why we all have secrets.
I’ve talked with a lot of girls (and guys) who have secrets—secrets about their past, their bodies, their pain, their families, their addictions, and tons more. Not every person has the same secrets, of course. But many have the secret of self-harm. My experience in counseling has shown me there are many girls who have this secret, and they also have a lot of trouble talking about it with anyone. I’ve written this to help you begin the journey towards healing. If you self-harm, I’m confident you don’t want to keep hurting yourself. Even if you can’t believe this is true now, I’m confident you will in time.
I’m also confident that, just like I, you too can begin to stop buying the lie that God isn’t enough. Because, He is! He made you. He knows what is best for you. He allowed His very Son Jesus to die on the cross for you. He shed His blood for you. That is how much He loves you. That is the truth He wants you to place your trust in. Not the blade. Not your blood. Not your secrets. He is all you will ever need. He has made you exactly as He wants you to be, and He wants you to start believing the truth about you. I want to show you how to do exactly this. In the following weeks, I’m going to post some suggestions to help you (or anyone you know) who is struggling with self-harm. So, keep reading!