Faith and phronesis in the healing process of persons who self-injure - a pastoral study
Van der Westhuizen, M.L.
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This study focussed on exploring how faith and phronesis (practical wisdom) influenced persons who self-injure in their process of healing. Richard Osmer’s (2008) model was utilised together with a qualitative research design. In-depth semi-structured interviews offered people who self-injure the opportunity to share their experiences on how their faith affected their journey to healing. In addition to this the participants were given the opportunity to look back in hindsight at their process of healing and identify specific wise actions, described as phronesis or practical wisdom, which positively affected and enhanced their healing process. Incidences of self-injury have increased in recent years. Self-injury is described in section 3 of the new DSM-5, as intentional self-inflicted damage to the surface of an individual’s body without conscious suicidal intent (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Pastoral theology refers to a critical reflection on the nature and caring activity of God and of human persons before God, within the personal, social, communal, and cultural contexts of the world. It is described as pastoral because of its focus on the care of persons and communities. It is theological because it reflects on the nature and activity of God, and of humanity in relation to God (McFarland, 2011:371). It is within this context that the role of faith and phronesis in healing persons who self-injury was examined. In Osmer’s interpretive task perspectives from the neighbouring sciences related to self-injury, faith and phronesis were examined which offered insights regarding why people would self-injure and why faith and phronesis are found to significantly impact healing. Osmer’s normative task presented an exegesis of a number of Scriptures, offering normative perspectives on self-injury, faith and phronesis. In this study faith is described as the personal and relational covenantal bond that God establishes with a believer. Through embracing a relationship with Christ, the identity of the person who self-injures is changed. Through a deeper cognition and understanding of Imago Dei the person embraces a new identity of value, worth and dignity. Within a relationship with Christ the person who self-injures is introduced to the concept of holiness which provides a moral ethical guideline and motivates and inspires him to embrace healing and a new life. In the healing process phronesis plays an indispensable role. Kruger (2016:16) describes phronesis as a renewed way of thinking. For the person who self-injures it essential to think differently about himself in order to cease self-injurious behaviour. The study explores phronesis from two avenues: as having the mind of Christ and wisdom as the fear of I AM. Paul encouraged believers to reason in a Biblically sound way- with the same mind as Christ. God, who restores the mind through the work of Christ, empowers the person who self-injures to reason in a renewed, theological way. Using the model of Richard Osmer insights gained in this study are applied to offer guidelines and a proposed model for phronetic pastoral intervention which is centred on the significant application of the concepts of faith and phronesis in the healing process of people who self-injure.
- Theology