IT’S NOT THAT EASY
In Bob Newhart’s first sitcom, where he played a psychologist, he once told a patient he was counseling, who was involved in an addiction, to “just stop it!” Of course, the irony was, if all you had to do was tell someone that, and it would work, there would be no need for mental health professionals, addiction recovery programs, or most importantly, the help of the Holy Spirit in defeating unwanted habits. The line in the show was, of course, for comedic effect, but the sad truth is that it’s just not that easy to stop masturbation (or other sexual sin, or any addiction). It wasn’t for me, and I’ve yet to hear of anyone for whom it was.
IT’S NOT FUNNY
Though that line from the show causes me to laugh because of its sheer idiocy, this is not a funny topic at all. I feel for those who struggle with this sexual sin, having lived with this addiction myself off and on for 36 years.
There are universal aspects to this sin among all men who deal with it, whether they are attracted to women or other men. Obviously, the physical pleasure and stress relief are enormously enticing. But, it also gives you a level of control that you may not experience anywhere else in your life. Other people in your life have input on what you wear, eat, drive, say, think, do with your time, etc. This one activity is yours and yours alone. That may make you feel that you deserve it – that you should have at least one thing in your life that no one can say anything about. But we’re leaving out one important thing in that equation: God. Should you have an activity that excludes Him? An activity over which you have total control with no responsibility to anyone? That not only excludes Him, but is completely disobedient to Him and against everything He wants for you?
WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT?
There are many reasons that it’s a bad idea. Whether or not you’re married, it’s sex outside marriage. It’s unfaithfulness to your wife or husband, if you’re married. If you’re single, it’s unfaithfulness to your future wife or husband. You’re taking control of your body, but your body belongs to God and to your spouse. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Corinthians 7:4 We are prohibited from sexual relations with anyone other than our spouse. Are you your spouse? No – so I believe that yourself is included in that prohibition. Habitual masturbation — particularly when accompanied by pornographic images or video, chatting/camming, erotic stories, etc., leads to difficulty in performing sexually with your spouse. This is due to the fact that our wildest, filthiest fantasies can be worked into a session of masturbation and it takes more and more to keep the excitement going, so we keep upping the ante to higher and higher levels of perversion. Real life can’t compete after a while. I could name other reasons that it’s a bad idea, but if the One who created you said not to do it and you accept the fact that your Creator knows what’s best for you, do I really have to list more reasons?
Bottom line: It doesn’t glorify God. To glorify Him has to be the reason for everything we do. And think. And say. There are many wonderful reasons to stop, all of which are admirable, but that one has to be the overarching purpose behind this difficult effort. For one thing, no other reason, good as it may be, is likely enough to get you to stop. So, any arguments that it’s “not that bad,” or “not bad at all,” or “the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit it,” really hold no water when compared to this bottom line.
I knew in my heart that I had been spitting in God’s face with this activity, much of it over the years that I was involved in church music ministry. Though I never verbalized it or even consciously thought it, I was basically saying, “You gave me this ability and I’m going to use it as I see fit, to get stress relief, to medicate my loneliness, to enjoy the physical sensations, to make me feel like a man, to be good at something, to finish something, to enjoy control over something in my life, to just get through the day, or just because I feel like it!” I remember one day having actually put this thought together in my mind, as I was about to partake in this activity again: “Isn’t it nice of God to have equipped us with this capability, which we can use — with a little creativity and deception — just about any time and anywhere?” How self-centered and arrogant is that – little me having this attitude toward the God of the universe? Conscious thought or not, that’s what it was – total disregard for His authority and for how it was affecting those I care most about. How it should have angered Him all those decades. But He instead offered grace and extreme patience, with little nudges of consequences along the way, to call me to Him (and some really big nudges, too).
I don’t have a cure-all for stopping this activity that will be the same exact prescription that God will use for every person. What I do have, though, is my experience that I can share with you. Perhaps there are pieces of it that God will use for you.
I set my mind/heart/soul on allowing Him total access to me — total authority over my decisions. I began filling my mind with His Word and thoughts about Him, multiple times more than ever before. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 I began sharing His Word and those thoughts about Him with others through texting and social media. I began communicating with Him throughout the day through prayer…perhaps 50 times a day, as things came up, big and small decisions and situations (many of these prayers are short and virtually all are silent, unless I’m in a place where I can pray out loud).
I also began reaching out to other people for mutual help. I went to Celebrate Recovery (CR) meetings at my church, where I discovered I wasn’t alone and got the support of other men in the same or other harmful situations. I got into a CR step study, where the real healing is found. I got a sponsor – someone ahead of me in recovery – to help guide me. I got accountability from other men, by sharing with them the garbage of my life (and they shared theirs with me). I realized I wasn’t alone in this epic battle. There’s more information on Celebrate Recovery in my first post, “My Story.”
I came clean with my wife, telling her what I had been doing all those years. While that was not by my choice (she basically told me I had to “come clean” about everything), and it was gut-wrenching, I believe it was a critical part of my freedom from it. It was the ultimate experience of “bringing the sin into the light.” It was bringing the most private part of me out to the one person in this world who deserves to know everything about me. I regret that she had to force me to do it; I should have told her freely. My fear stopped me. Don’t let it stop you.
I completed an online course at http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com. Their online courses include (subject to availability) a mentor who responds to your lessons, and the ability to have one or multiple accountability partners who read your answers. Note: Since I wrote this post, Setting Captives Free has changed to Gospel Growth Ministries, and they now have one course, instead of separate courses for specific issues. I haven’t taken the new course, but I expect it to be excellent based on my past experience with them, and it’s still free, at http://gospelgrowthministries.org/.
Jesus used the combination of all these things to free me for the first time ever. It wasn’t instant. He moved less quickly than I would have liked, but of course, it was me making each decision to do it again along the way. I failed a few times, even in the midst of all this new activity and renewing of my mind. Three months after I started all of these things – which, collectively, I refer to as “when I got serious about recovery” – I stopped. In fact, I stopped masturbating, looking at porn, sharing pics, and online chatting and webcamming.
HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN “CLEAN”?
The last day I did any of these things was July 30, 2012. I am as astounded as anyone that it has been that long; it’s truly nothing short of miraculous. Satan had me, to the point that he rarely bothered me, because I had let him push me off the top of the hill I was hurtling down and I wasn’t even putting my foot out to slow down. In His ultimate grace, mercy and protection, God didn’t allow me to keep going, which surely would have resulted in my going further than ever down the road of sexual sin, to lower and lower levels of sin. He sent His Son to meet me on that downward trajectory and put His own foot out to stop me. Praise Him!
IS THERE HOPE?
Yes! I’m living proof! Is it easy? No! I’m also living proof of that. The easy road – which most guys choose – is to drop this fight, keep giving in to temptation and chalk it up to “this is just how I am,” or “all guys do it.” You’re a man among men if you instead choose to fight until you see God’s victory in your life and the lives of your family members, who are all affected by this in one way or another. I pray you are (or you become) that man.