One girl lifted long sleeves to reveal razor blade marks on the inside of her arms. The other is in the middle of another (no this is NOT the first) pregnancy. The first can’t quit cutting. The second can’t quit having sex. And neither of them is old enough to have a drivers license.

It’s shocking, isn’t it? And yet it’s far more common than you think. In talking with youth, I’ve had to master the art of keeping a straight face when my insides feel like they’re going to turn inside out. You’re doing WHAT?!?!?!

Most of us get stuck looking at and judging the behaviors. Don’t believe me? Think about how much attention has been devoted to the recent indiscretions of one tiger-of-a-golfer. We hear the stories and get stuck in the shock value of it all: “He did WHAT???” On the heels of that comment comes things like

“Who would do something like that?” and …

“What’s his problem?” and (although I strongly advise against this one) …

“I would never do something like that.”

Sure you would. And so would I. And we have. Maybe cutting or sex isn’t our thing. But we all have destructive behaviors lurking in the shadows, just waiting for a heart crisis to cause problems. And behind all these “cries for help” sits a heart that longs to be loved. Plain and simple. We each seek a sense of value and belonging in different ways, but we’re common in our need for love and presence.

What does this mean?

FIRST, admit our deep need to be loved.

SECOND, understand there is only One who loves perfectly, and the rest of us love as best we can from our own brokenness.

THIRD, learn to recognize the warnings signs when a little ache is turning into something more sinister and uncontrollable. Then ask for help.

FOURTH, the next time you see a youth cutting herself or an adult who makes habitually bad decisions, never forget that each of us carries around the same humanity they do.

And the only thing keeping the emptiness at bay is the hope that filled that bundle in the manger.

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