Confronting Masturbation.

We don’t like talking about it; but ignoring the conversation won’t make it go away.

Its an issue the majority of us deal with, but instead of talking about it, we pass it off as a joke.  It makes people uncomfortable to talk about.  It’s much easier to laugh about masturbation then face the questions that surround it.  Questions we struggle to find answers for.  I hope this post sparks a conversation that continues to be had beyond here … beyond just joking about it.

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a live stream podcast, hosted by Group Magazine, that focused on sexual sins.  On the panel was a lady named Danette Matty, who shared a bit about her story and working with gay teens (which we’ll feature soon).  After the show, I had the chance to connect with Danette on Facebook.  In our conversation, Danette shared with me some advice she passed on to a female student who struggles with masturbation.

Below is what Danette offered:

Responding sexually to sexual stimulation is natural.  You are a NORMAL and healthy girl.  Many teens and young adults masturbate; it shouldn’t have “star status” among sins.

What’s more important and what can make it sinful is where your thoughts are in the moment.  I don’t think masturbation is a black and white issue, but lust is (and let’s face it, one doesn’t normally masturbate without first fueling lust).  It’s important to ask yourself what’s going on in your head and in your life.  At the moment when you’re tempted to masturbate, ask yourself tough questions and answer honestly:

  • What is it that I need at this moment, that I want to meet or cope with by masturbating?
  • Am I frustrated?  Hurt?  Lonely?  Anxious?  Sleep-deprived?  Lustful?

In all those cases, it’s tempting to avoid Jesus.  I say invite Him into your struggle immediately and be brutally honest with yourself and Him: “Jesus, You see that I really want to satisfy my sex drive right now.  My body isn’t completely in control.  But I want Your help to cope with whatever I’m needing right now in a way that draws me close to You.  Help me Lord.  Show me what I’m really needing and meet me at my point of need.”

Danette’s response caused me to revisit this conversation for myself.  What do I say about masturbation?  Do I understand both sides of it, and can I express my thoughts concerning it without sounding dogmatic?  How would I respond to a teen struggling with masturbating?

The right and wrong of it

I have a friend from college who swears that masturbation can be done without lust; and that it keeps him from pursuing sex with girls – until he gets married.  My own beliefs about the subject finds that lust always accompanies masturbation, which makes doing it a sin.  Both of us claim to be right, leaving the other person to be wrong.  But could both of us be right?

Hmm.  Good question.

Triple-X Church, an online ministry that deals with porn, has this to say:

Our stance is simply this: you want to live a life that is honoring to God then start pleasing him and stop pleasing yourself. Stop making excuses and get some control over your life. Yes, it is tough. Yes, we know hormones are raging. However, God is calling us to holiness. Live an extraordinary life. Masturbation will leave you hanging every time! It is a selfish act that pleases no one but YOU.

Here, we find no room for debate, all masturbation is sin.  Since it is impossible not to lust, in some form, when masturbating, God has deemed it sinful (Matthew 5:27-30).  So, for those that think masturbating is okay, because they don’t lust when doing it, they’re just trying to justify their actions.  Right?  Or are they under the conviction that since scripture is silent on the issue, they can masturbate without guilt and shame?

In a sense, they have a point; scripture doesn’t say anything about self-stimulation.  See, while Matthew 5 calls us not to lust, it doesn’t say anything against masturbating to release stress or as a way to keep oneself from other sexual sins.  It could be very possible, in fact, that some people can masturbate without any type of lustful thought in their mind.  This article offers some good questions to consider:

Then again, what if someone masturbates with absolutely no sexual fantasy of any sort.  Is it then sinful?  Again, this is difficult to answer. But, since the Bible doesn’t condemn or condone it, can we make dogmatic assertions?  Furthermore, what if a person masturbates in order to reduce the sexual urge in an attempt to not commit fornication?  Certainly, actual fornication would be a sin, and masturbation would be preferable in this instance.  But does this mean that the person is being mastered by the flesh?  If so, then that would be wrong.  But, does it mean then that a self-release of sexual tension is then acceptable if it is to avoid fornication?  Again, since the Bible does not declare masturbation a sin, I cannot say it is.

Can’t really argue with this.  But it does bring up other questions: Can one masturbate without lusting? Can innocent masturbation become a snare that eventually entraps you (masters you)?  How often can one masturbate innocently before it’s considered an addiction?  What does the person do when he or she gets married, does the masturbation continue or stop?

From a biblical standpoint, we can’t call it a sin if no lust is involved; but, then again, studies have also shown that 98% of all people who masturbate, lust to some degree.  While both sides offer up good points for their case, I don’t think both groups can be right.  As Paul states: everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Moving beyond the “what does the bible say about masturbation” question lies an issue that is most often ignored: PRIDE.  In talking about this subject, we really need to consider the role pride plays in all of this.

Remember, while masturbation may relieve stress, it’s an act that centers around self.  And last time I checked, centering on “self” leads to pride, which is a sin.

Asking a better question

When talking about masturbation, instead of asking if it’s right or wrong, how about we ask, “Does it cause my life to Glorify God?”  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if my friend or I prove each other wrong.  What matters most is our relationship with God.  Are we living to our fullest for His sake, and not our own?  Are we pressing through trials – both spiritually and physically or are we allowing ourselves to shrink back in one area in order to stand-up strong in another?

According to scripture, we’re called to persevere in all areas of our life, enduring trials and pressures, for the sake of Christ.  (Read Philippians and Galatians!)  So whether one can masturbate without lusting, or whether this can’t be done, maybe refraining from self-stimulation altogether is what God desires.  This isn’t to make our lives that much harder and stressful, but to make us that much more holy.

I’m not suggesting that ignoring the urges is easy.  Sex is all around us.  Temptations bombarded our minds daily – hourly even.  Stopping something that you’ve allowed to happen for years is difficult, but it is possible to put the brakes on and turn a different direction.  (Besides, if you’re not lusting or if it’s not an addiction, then it should be easy to stop, right?)  This is all possible because of the Spirit that lives within us.  Let us not forget, He who raised Jesus from the dead, He who created Life, dwells within each of us – everyday (Romans 8:11)!

What I’m suggesting is that maybe we rethink our life and ask the hard question: do my actions (public and private) honor God?  Am I committed to Him, as He is to me?

A Challenge and a caution

I’m not gonna ask you to stop masturbating … you’re the only one that can make that decision.  But I will ask you to consider living for Him, in all areas of your life, no matter how hard the battle may be.  Here are the articles I mentioned in this post, and two others.  Read them and pray that God leads you to do His Will in your life.

Addiction to Masturbation

Is Masturbation wrong?

Relevant Magazine published two great articles here and here

For those caught in the trap of addiction, know that there is help and freedom available.  Triple-X Church has great resources for this, and I have some books that might be of use which you can find here.

Please hear my heart in all of this.  I am not condemning those who masturbate.  Whether you do it without lusting or you do it while lusting, all I am calling for is a better question to be asked.  Be assured of this, God’s grace is bigger than this issue of masturbation.  For those that strive to pursue purity, and fail, God WILL forgive you – every time!  In the words of my friend Danette:

Keep seeking Jesus in every area of your life!  The thing I love about Jesus, among other things, is that He is not embarrassed by us and He isn’t afraid to “talk” to us about the things we are embarrassed about.  He is FOR you!  And so am I.

To Him who gives freedom and life to all who call upon His Name …

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5 responses to “Confronting Masturbation.

  1. Very well stated and many good thoughts here. Thanks Shawn I appreciate your service to God in this area. It has to be brought out into the light! NOTHING worthwhile grows in the darkness. We as a church and responsible Christian men need to shed the light in this area to help young men through their trials.

  2. Great post! I wrote something very similar on my blog a few months back. I make sure to have an open dialogue with my students on this topic. If we are not comfortable talking about it, then they never will be. Ignoring this discussion will only lead to our students feeling more shame and guilt. We must make every effort to assist them in overcoming this struggle.

    • I totally agree, Zach. The topic might be uncomfortable, but it’s in this “uncomfortableness” that our students find the freedom they’re looking for.

  3. Pingback: From Father to Son « Six:11 Ministries·

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