After reading all three of Margaret Duncan’s articles on self-harm, I found myself asking “who is my struggling neighbor?” Looking to my left and my right, and in true American fashion thinking about myself, everybody is a struggling neighbor. I get it. Video-gamers don’t have the same scars that exercise fanatics do, and that couch potato won’t have the same scars that the porn addict will have. The cocaine addict won’t have the same scars that the self-harmers have, but we all have scars, and we are constantly finding new ways to get them.
I frequently hear people around me saying things like, “you just can’t possibly know what it’s like” and “you can’t relate because you haven’t experienced it.” We all have the tendency to sin more under duress and we all, due to the fall, struggle with excessive, overwhelming stress. Maybe this isn’t under scrutiny by addicts, but I would like to suggest that not some, not most, but all can relate.
So how do we cope with stress? Some people refuel socially, some through time with video games and movies and Netflix. Some exercise and do the creative things Margaret mentioned, like “hiking,” or maybe surfing? This struck a cord.
I surf. I have surfed every conceivable opportunity I have been given since the day I first stood up on the board. Replace Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)” with Wave Pools (surf) and that’s been my life since I was 14. I do it by reflex, friends don’t win, family, doesn’t win, and sometimes I wonder if God brought me to the beach or I brought Him. It has systematically compromised my relationships with friends and family. I have surfed in hurricanes, surfed with a broken knee, been scarred, skin charred by the sun, almost drowned and been out surfing at the same beach when someone else actually did.
People don’t have an issue with my “drop everything and surf” addiction, my quest to work hard enough to develop any kind of pain that reminds me that I surfed, in fact people think it’s cool. People including my family expect me to surf when I’m leering across the beach at the waves, which is all I do while the sun is out. Where am I going with this?
Everybody is addicted to something. Hiding indoors thinking you’re safer playing video games and eating food, maybe getting heart disease, doesn’t mean you’ll be any healthier dying of a heart attack at age fifty than the crack addict who rehabs too late, or the person cutting him or herself. Doing extreme sports is dangerous, doing drugs is dangerous, exercising can be dangerous, self-harm is dangerous, gluttony can be dangerous, and porn is dangerous.
We have all found something. We developed this false perception that you can live stressful lives and not have issues with which we need Christ’s help. In this lie we feel bad for people who seem to be living with more addiction than we will admit exists in ourselves. Then we ask why people that struggle with “the really bad issues” are struggling in a sea of people who don’t believe they have issues of the same magnitude. Stop it. Sin is a not a quantitative measurement qualitative one we all endure in this life.
There is no addiction or coping mechanism to stress that doesn’t wear you down or bring you closer to death in some way except those that come about through your relationship with Christ. You want to help your neighbor struggling with self-harm, your neighbor struggling with porn, your neighbor pushing it too hard at the gym? Identify the addictions in your own life, live the whole gospel and love all your neighbors.