I’ve never met a cutter who views it as an optimal long-term lifestyle choice or a best practice for coping or relieving stress. They ALL say it’s something they want to quit doing. This must mean, then, that it does not provide the lasting sense of relief, peace, or atonement it seems to promise in the beginning.
Cutting betrays itself as an unsustainable approach to managing one’s emotions and circumstances. Rather than it working better and better, the longer and more frequently people do it, they instead find it multiplies their problems and swells the weight of their burdens. Rather than a tool that makes life easier, it is a weapon aimed directly at the self.
Cutting does not lead to victory, but to defeat. Guilt and shame. Temporary relief. Obsession. A cycle that always ends at regret.
Jesus, though, really could say, “It is finished,” and mean it. He paid the price once and put an end to sin and death. His blood does have power. His wounds really can heal.
Not long after my daughter, Tessa, turned to God for help to stop cutting, she realized something profound: she was trying to accomplish on her own what Jesus had already accomplished for her. She realized that she had shed her own blood in an attempt to purge herself of what she saw as undesirable within herself. Although she initially felt better each time she did this, eventually the undesirable things piled up again and the urge to atone for them returned. Bloodletting became a circular trap she found no way to spring on her own. Short of perfecting herself, there was no way to permanently get rid of everything undesirable.
I’m grateful to Caroline Kettlewell for writing down and sharing her experiences with cutting. I read her memoir several years ago, near the beginning of my quest to find some way to comprehend something I’d never heard of or encountered before. She is a terrific writer and was willing to uncover a very difficult aspect of her life to help the rest of us understand what takes place inside the mind of someone dealing with self-harm. It was a comfort to me to find in her words a first-hand expression of what my intuition was telling me about self-injury and the path toward true healing.
I cut with painstaking, deliberate slowness and a mounting sense of —excitement? Anticipation? Expecting to cross, at last, some final threshold, to realize some permanent escape. A blood sacrifice substantive enough to articulate the depth and breadth and conviction of my despair …
… Once again, I wanted to kill something in myself, wanted to bleed it out until I was left with the bare, clean baseline, the absolute zero from which point I could rebuild a better version of myself.
~Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game
I’ll never forget the joy I saw in Tessa’s eyes when she described what it meant to know that atoning for her sin was not up to her.
Jesus — the Passover Lamb, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth, the Lamb of God — offered Himself and His own blood on her (and our) behalf as the final sacrifice to atone for sin. No other sacrifice since that day has purged anyone of any sin in God’s eyes. The Book of Hebrews tells us all about this in detail.