This is a very hard subject, and I've been debating whether I should ask your opinion. Actually I'm quite embarrassed about it. So here I go. My question is on masturbation. I know it's wrong. I used to do it all the time, but now only once in a while. Except for that, my life seems to be on track. I've prayed about stopping, but it doesn't work. What do you think? I know this is a weird email, but I had to write. Thanks.
There's nothing weird about your email message. Lots of men have this problem. (For that matter, so do lots of women, although you hear a lot less about that.) The subject isn't really hard, either. Masturbation is wrong because it goes against what the sexual powers were designed for, because it is inseparable from illicit fantasies, because these fantasies take on a life of their own, and because it draws the erotic longing backward into Self instead of outward. It doesn't "release" lust, but reinforces it, so that next time the temptation is stronger yet. The hard thing, most people find, isn't figuring out that they ought to stop, but stopping. (It's also hard to ask for help — that takes courage).
Stopping takes sustained discipline over a long, long time, and even then it isn't easy (as you've discovered). But there are things you can do to make stopping easier. For example, you can learn to identify the sorts of situations that tempt you to relapse, and avoid them. For some men this may mean something as simple as avoiding long, warm baths, not looking at certain kinds of pictures, or getting up as soon as you wake up, rather than lazing in bed. Another thing you should do is learn to recognize the excuses you make for yourself when you're about to give in, so that the moment you begin to make an excuse, you can catch yourself in the act and firmly say to yourself, "No." I don't think you can force an unwanted thought out of your mind, but if an unwanted thought comes around and murmurs to you, you don't have to listen. Eventually it will wander back out.
Don't be cast down. Try not to fall, but if you fall, repent and get up. If you fall again, repent again. Your frustration with your failures is the sign that God is helping you. If he weren't helping you, you wouldn't care.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2003 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.