Self-inflicted wounds are those injuries which we bring upon ourselves, that is, we cause them to happen and we are the ones who suffer as a result. Self-inflicted harm can be bodily, physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational in nature. Some self- inflicted wounds have temporary effects, while others have consequences which can linger indefinitely, or in some cases, last for a lifetime. Surely we all can agree on this: self-inflicted wounds are no fun.

Sometimes we see a particular country/nation struggling with self-inflicted wounds. The Israelites barely escaped a civil war during the days of Joshua (Joshua 22). Later, Israel was not so fortunate, as there was all-out war between the tribe of Benjamin and the other Israelite tribes (Judges 20). That conflict was not caused by foreigners who meddled in the internal affairs of Israel. No, the men of Israel brought it all on themselves. It was an ugly blemish in Israel’s history. In reality, the whole messy situation was avoidable.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century. Some countries already have tasted the horrors of civil war since the turn of the century. Others struggle because citizens with light-colored skin seek to oppress those whose skin is darker, or vice versa. Nations struggle because of unfounded, ungodly stereotypes among its diverse citizenship. Finger- pointing and name-calling bring more hurt, more bitterness, and wider division. We recall that Jesus said a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24).

We also see self-inflicted wounds in individual lives. It happened over forty years ago, but I still remember it well. One day one of my teammates was not having a good day at practice. He became so angry with himself that he went over to a large, unmovable, thick, metal object and struck it as hard as he could with his fist. Not smart. Not smart for him and not smart for his teammates who watched in horror at his lack of self-control (which put him out of athletic competition for several weeks). Others pay the price for taking substances into their body which bring horrific, nonreversible harm to it. Some have their thinking damaged by drinking from the waters of atheistic, ungodly materials. There also are saints who fail to grow as they ought to spiritually simply because they do not put forth the required effort (2 Peter 1:5-7). Again, in each of these cases, though there may be some indirect outside influences, the bottom line is, the harm is self-inflicted.

It is not uncommon to observe self-inflicted wounds in marriages. There definitely are instances in which a couple’s jobs, finances, health, or other family members put a serious strain on their relationship. Sadly, however, marriages also can self-destruct with no “help” from any outsiders. Like envy, bitterness is rottenness to the bones (Proverbs 14:30), and when a bitter spirit makes its home in the hearts of a husband or wife, they are setting themselves up for big-time troubles. From a bitter heart spew forth sharp, biting words of animosity and little which resembles kindness. Yes, a couple can “kill” itself with its ugly words. “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing sand cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Some couples just “come apart” because their lives in many ways are “apart.” Due to their work or other obligations which they have taken on, they find themselves with little time to spend together and before you know it, they feel that they are drifting apart from one another. They are inflicting wounds on their marriage in a fashion that no outsider possibly could. Some troubled couples are able to recognize where their relationship is headed and make the necessary changes to get their relations back to where they need to be. Others marriages are not so fortunate.

It troubles us to see nations, individuals, and marriages suffer with self-inflicted wounds. It really saddens and disturbs us to see a congregation of the church inflict wounds upon itself. Challenges which come from outside the church are no laughing matter. However, some of the most crushing blows to the spirit, unity, and vibrancy of a local church come when its members bite and devour one another. We expect such behavior among animals, the heathen, and some three-year old, spoiled kids. But it has no place among the servants of the Christ! “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:16).

We have heard horror stories of how some of God’s children treat one another. We talk to those outside the church with respect and understanding, then we turn on our brethren and talk to them as if they were a wild dog or a snake. Unthinkable! We refuse to spread unsubstantiated information about our biological family, but we gladly spread unfounded rumors about our spiritual family. Where is the heart that says, “Regardless of what happens, I will love, be kind, and think no evil?” (1 Corinthians 13:4,5). Where is the heart that says, “I want to have and demonstrate the mind of my Lord?” (Philippians 2:5).

Spiritual darkness abounds in the world. Nations, individual lives, marriages and local churches face threatening challenges. We must overcome by faith. Let us not allow Satan to cause us to self-destruct.

— Roger D. Campbell