Jim Burns

Jim Burns

Back to Beliefnet Teens

Jim Burns is the President of YouthBuilders, an evangelical family-based youth ministry. Once a month, Jim will dig into his mailbag and answer your questions on everything from eating disorders to biblical interpretation. Send Jim a question at JimBurns@staff.beliefnet.com

I sometimes hurt myself intentionally. I've cut myself with a razor blade and burned a heart onto my leg. I don't think I'm psycho or anything, but I'm not sure why I do it. My boyfriend broke up with me because of this. Is there something wrong with me?

Let me be blunt: Intentionally hurting yourself in any way is not a good thing. Burning your leg and cutting yourself are extremely dangerous acts. These things suggest there's something going on inside you that even you might not understand. In my experience with other "self cutters," I've found there's often some unresolved anger lurking beneath the surface that manifests itself as self-abuse. The fact that you're writing to me tells me you know you're dealing with something very serious and you really want to stop hurting yourself. I think you can get past this, but you need the help of a professional.

I urge you to seek out a counselor. Ask your pastor or a school counselor to help you find someone local (you don't have to go into detail, just tell them you'd like to talk to someone), or call a hotline like 1-800-HIT-HOME (1-800-448-4663) to find a Christian counselor in your area.

You also need the support of a mature friend or two. Find a trusted adult whom you can call when you feel the urge to cut or burn yourself. Ask this person to hold you accountable, to talk with you until the urge passes. And if there's ever a time when you can't find anyone to talk to, please go to the emergency room of your local hospital and talk with someone there.

  • Talk with others about beliefs and body image.

  • I have a friend who grew up believing in the Bible, but now says she can't accept some of the things it teaches. She says that the harder she tried to get close to God, the more lonely and guilty she felt. She didn't feel God was answering her prayers. Now she's not sure if God even exists. How could she try so hard to seek God and still feel nothing? I pray for her often, but I don't know how else to help her.

    Great question. The way our faith and our feelings interact is difficult for any of us to understand. For some people, the intense feelings of love and forgiveness are what lead them to God. For others, the feelings come later, when they've grasped more fully what it means to follow God.

    You mention two reasons for your friend's change of heart. The first has to do with her sense of guilt. Sometimes, well-meaning people follow a set of beliefs that emphasize guilt, not the love and grace of God. In those cases, it's very difficult for people to feel God's presence in their lives. They are too caught up in focusing on the ways they don't measure up to accept God's forgiveness. If that's the case with your friend, it will be tough, but not impossible, for you to get her to think differently.

    The second reason your friend has given up on God has to do with her belief that God wasn't answering her prayers. Many Christians feel this same frustration. We ask God for something, then wait for him to do what we want. We forget that God knows what's best for us. I think God gets blamed for a lot of unanswered prayers that he actually did answer, just not in the way we wanted him to. God's response to our sometimes selfish and immature prayers is often "let's wait" or "this isn't best for you." For some people, these "negative" answers feel like non-answers.

    So how can you help her? First of all, you're doing the right thing by keeping her in your prayers. God is the only one who can change your friend's heart. Then, show her the loving God you know through your actions, lifestyle, and faithfulness to God. Whenever possible, let her see and feel the positive experiences of your faith. When the apostle Paul stood before the Roman leaders in Acts 26, he didn't argue intellectually. He simply said, "Here's my experience." Paul disturbed the Romans with his testimony. A life lived for God speaks for itself.