Struggling with Masturbation
I have a problem with masturbation. I am struggling. Once I start it's like it's impossible to stop it. I need help. Are there any ways I can avoid it?
And Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” - Mt. 26:41
First of all, brother, remember these words from Jesus. He knows the struggle between the body and the flesh. And although He never sinned, He did know temptation and did love those who surrendered to it, just as we do.
I know it must have been difficult to write in with your question. It takes guts to admit your struggle with masturbation, and I’m really proud of you for having the courage not only to admit it but to humbly ask for counsel.
I always hated when people would ask this question at Church and the priest or youth minister would sort of “dance around” the topic. The answer was never practical and it annoyed me. So, some of the things I’m gonna suggest here might seem random and ridiculous and will, I’m sure, get people all mad at me – but I’m gonna share with you what I’ve learned, heard, and shared during my travels around the world talking with thousands of young adults (just like you) the past few years. So stick with me here – I’m gonna be as practical as I can be.
Step One: Admit there is a problem
Step One is admitting there is a problem. Realize this, the first part of your victory over this is completed – you have admitted the problem and the sin.
Step Two: Reconciliation
Step Two is reconciliation. Reconcile yourself with God, through Jesus, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Really focus on the Act of Contrition – sincerely ask the Lord to help you in this fight, and for the grace not to do it again.
Sometimes this step is the difficult one. We admit the sin, and ask for forgiveness, but figure "deep down" that, "I’m just gonna do it again". But part of reconciliation is the earnest and sincere hope that you can avoid it in the future, and will do everything in your power to avoid it. That takes us to the next step.
Step Three: Stop!
Step Three is do everything in your power to stop. That means – keeping the spirit of honesty and humility that helped you write this email.
What does that mean?
It means taking an honest look at the things in your life and world that make this battle against masturbation more difficult.
Let’s start with your room – what does it look like? Is your computer in there? Is pornography a problem?
Some things to consider doing:
- Move your computer into the living room.
- Never be online with your door closed.
- Tape pictures of Jesus and Mary, or your family around the sides of your monitor.
- Install some anti-porn software on your computer.
- And take the time to read and pray more about what the Bible has to say about porn.
- Do the posters on your wall contain half naked people? Do the video games or movies or CDs in your room constantly depict, show, talk about or refer to sex?
- Put all that stuff (if any) in a box and get rid of it – give it to your youth minister to throw away for you, if you just can’t.
I know, I know – this sounds extreme, right?
It’s really not. Realize, that you are trying to stop and when you “attempt to do good…evil will be at hand.” - Romans 7:21.
You have to be willing to change the environment around you – to (as St. John says) be “in the world, but not of the world.”
Let’s go a step further: When does masturbation become a problem?
Identify those times, and then try something different in those times.
Is it when you’re tired and trying to fall asleep at night? Wrap a rosary around your hands and pray it until you fall asleep.
Is it when you’re in the bathroom? Shower with cold water.
Is it when you’re alone in the house? Call a friend (someone you can trust) and have them pray with you, instead.
Is it when you have a lot of nervous energy? Get on the ground and do pushups or situps until you can’t barely walk or move. Seriously, bro – you gotta be willing to try something different.
Lastly, know this – you can stop this. And that goes for anyone else reading this, the soul can guide the body. Take the time to read about this body/soul wrestling match in Romans 8. Pray through the verses, journal about them, commit them to memory. You are not alone – God is with you and others struggle with it, too.
Step Four: Make yourself accountable
Step Four - Accountability is VITAL. There have to be people who will hold you accountable. People you can be honest with; people who won’t judge you, but who will pray with you and walk with you. Find those people in your life, your parish – wherever – and start praying together.
I have a group of guys who hold me accountable on stuff like this – and, really, all parts of my life and faith. We talk a lot, we pray together, we call each other out…and I can honestly say, that you can conquer this – speaking personally, it is possible
I have more respect for you than you could possibly know for admitting this and for fighting through it.
And for those people who tell you things like "it’s no big deal" or that "it’s healthy" or that "it doesn’t hurt anyone", lovingly tell them four words: long walk, short pier.
Masturbation (and pornography) are the quickest and easiest ways that the devil controls our young world these days – further subjugating women, suffocating men and destroying all in the process, both men and women alike, who fall into the trap of "self gratification". Yes, it’s difficult to live a holy and chaste life – but it is possible. You know it, deep down – and so do they.
God gave us our bodies for re-creation not recreation. If they don’t like it, have them take it up with God, not you. The stirring you feel in your soul that it is wrong is not the Church or anyone else making you feel guilty, that is your spiritual maturity showing itself and the Spirit reminding you that God wants more for your life. Follow that voice.
You are His child.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…” - Eph 5:8
God promises us that when we bring sin and darkness into the light (as you have done), that healing and forgiveness follow. Take the time to pray through and journal about some of these verses, in your fight against the darkness.
ROM 13:12, MT 6:23, LK 11:34-36, JN 1:5, JN 3:19, JN 8:12, JN 12:35, JN 12:46, ACTS 26:18, ROM 2:19, 2COR 4:6, 1THES 5:5, 1PT 2:9, 1JN 1:5, 1JN 2:8
I’m proud to be in this battle with you.
Keep fighting the fight – the goal is worth the work.
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