Surgical Spirit: Stop Scratching!

Ruth Eardley is a GP and member of Affinity partner Little Hill Church, Leicester. She writes a regular piece for her church entitled 'Surgical Spirit'. We have been given permission to reproduce them. This is her latest contribution:

Stop Scratching!

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Years ago, a patient in her twenties had a little spot on her upper arm. It became infected and, over the next eighteen months, it healed and then broke down time and time again. "We’re not getting anywhere with this, are we?" said her doctor, an experienced GP in his sixties. "You’ve had five courses of antibiotics and the wound is just getting bigger and bigger. What shall we do?" "Anything!" replied the patient tearfully. "It’s really getting me down." "Right!" said the doctor, "meet me at the Cottage Hospital in half an hour."           

Now this doctor knew a lot about dermatology but he was also good at setting fractures. Within an hour he had put a plaster cast on that arm and even provided a sling in case it felt too heavy. "See you in six weeks" he said.                                                                               

Sure enough, when the plaster came off, there was the skin, beautifully healed. The arm was a little spindly at first but the wound never recurred. The diagnosis? The injury was self-inflicted. "Neurotic excoriation" is a fairly common phenomenon, especially, dare I say it, among young women. (I should know, I was a neurotic young woman myself once). It is excessive, repeated picking or scratching of minor bumps on the skin and it causes infection, inflammation and scars.

This is exactly what it’s like when we bear a grudge or nurture bitterness. We return to the initial insult again and again, picking at it, scratching it, opening up the wound, feeling the sting of it, making it worse. Our verses have a simple message: stop it! Take the antihistamine tablet of kindness and apply the antiseptic cream of compassion. Above all, fetch the healing balm of forgiveness, "just as in Christ God forgave you".

This is impossible in our own strength, just as it is impossible not to scratch where it itches. It is going to take massive self-control (Galatians 5:23). So, how often should we forgive? "Seventy-times-seven", according to our Lord (Matthew 18:22). You just have to keep on doing it. So every time you feel the hurt, every time you remember the injury, every time it itches – don’t scratch!


Lord, I’ve discovered that forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. Fill me with love and compassion and please take away resentment. Bless the person who hurt me – and thank you for blessing me, even though I don’t deserve it either. Grant me peace in my heart and may I demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, especially self-control. In other words, dear Lord, help me not to scratch!

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