An Offshoot of Loneliness: Masturbation

Loneliness drives people to find some kind of solace: it drives some to masturbate. In this chapter, we focus on that controversial, hush-hush subject, masturbation.

   Among the pile of papers clamped together by the red bulldog clip I mentioned in the Preface lie some containing the following questions: 'I've heard a lot of gossip about masturbation. What exactly is it? Why do Christians do it? Is it wrong?' 'Some Christians say that masturbation is wrong, others say if I stop feeling guilty about it the problem will go away. I'm confused. What should I believe?' 'I feel so lonely without a partner, masturbation seems to be the only way I have of releasing tension. Is it sinful? I sometimes feel very guilty about it.'

   These questions are typical of those I am asked regularly. I propose, therefore, to use this chapter to clarify what masturbation is and what it is not, to look at the question, 'Why do people masturbate?', to observe some effects of masturbatory activity and to seek to answer the vexed question, 'Is it a sin?'

What is masturbation?

This word 'masturbation' comes from two Latin words: manus meaning hand and turbatio meaning agitation or excitement. A person who masturbates is one who seeks sexual excitation through stimulating his or her own sex organs with his or her hands or fingers, or in some other way.

   Many people object to the word 'masturbation' because, for centuries, it has carried negative overtones. They prefer

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to use one of a cluster of pseudonyms for this activity: self-stimulation, auto-stimulation, auto-eroticism, self-manipulation, solo-sexuality, to mention a few. These terms are used interchangeably to describe the genital activity I mentioned above.

   It needs to be recognized, particularly in Christian circles where the very word 'masturbation' is taboo, that this practice of self-stimulation is perfectly normal in the sense that almost everybody does it at some stage in their life.

   In his report, Sexual behaviour in the human male, A.C. Kinsey records the results of his research into masturbatory activity among college-level males. His findings suggest that 99% of such men are said to have nocturnal emissions, 96% practise masturbation and 80% of 'religiously active' men admitted to the practice of masturbation.1 Another set of figures suggest that as many as 75% of women also masturbate.

   Children masturbate. It is a part of their self-exploration. If they discover that playing with their genitals brings pleasure, it may become a natural part of pleasurable self-discovery for a while.  There is nothing wrong with this child-play. It is not dirty. Children should not be scolded. They should be allowed to investigate their bodies in this way.

   Adolescents masturbate for a different reason. They discover that self-stimulation can relieve them of a great deal of pent-up sexual tension. They, too, discover the pleasure involved. In the region of 90% of teenage boys masturbate for this reason. Like the self-discovery of childhood, this masturbatory activity during adolescence is part of the maturing process and should not be seen as cause for alarm or unnecessary guilt.

  In adulthood, many people continue to masturbate. Many men masturbate to release the sperm which build-up in the seminal vesicles every four or five days. Wet dreams, or nocturnal emissions to use the technical term, deal with some of this build up, but even so some men find they need to resort to masturbation as an additional tension-reducer. They find that masturbation is more than a physiological necessity, but the needed release can come very quickly with minimal physical stimulation, non-erotic touch and in an

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emotional vacuum, that is, without erotic fantasies. Some women, too, masturbate regularly during certain stages of the menstrual cycle when sexual hunger is intense but when their needs cannot be met in any other way. Such solo-sex might take place in the 'quickie' way I described above, or it might become the climax of erotic fantasy.

   Many married people masturbate. A man whose wife is in an advanced state of pregnancy and who might therefore find sexual intercourse uncomfortable might stimulate himself, or the couple might resort to mutual manual masturbation to orgasm, each bringing the other to a pleasurable climax manually rather than genitally. A husband who works away from home all week or who is away from home on business for a prolonged spell may masturbate, not simply to reduce tension but in order to keep alive his genital love for his wife. He may imagine his wife alongside him while he masturbates. His wife, similarly, may masturbate and wish that her husband were there with her. Or a widow may masturbate while fantasizing about her deceased partner. It may be one of the ways she copes with sexual frustration during the painful process of bereavement.

   From childhood, through adolescence, into young adulthood, single people masturbate. Many married people phase in and out of masturbatory activity, too. And as we have seen, when their vocation changes from marriage back to singleness again, either because of separation, divorce or death, solo-sex seems an attractive option for those who once enjoyed genital intercourse.

   This over-all view of solo-sex can increase our understanding of a much misunderstood part of life. It seems to point to the fact that masturbation is a bridge between the infantile need ingrained in all of us to explore the mystery of our bodies and the challenge of adulthood which confronts each of us to terms with our sexuality and see it as part of our personality. Solo-sex, then, should be seen as the bridge which links childhood and adulthood. Indeed, it should be seen as an exciting challenge: a challenge to grow towards maturity.

   Thus the adolescent who masturbates must learn that,

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pleasurable as the sensations of self-stimulation are, the chief purpose of the sex drive is not to gratify self but to move us toward others: not so that we use others' bodies for self-gratification either genitally or emotionally, but so that we learn, through joy and pain, what it means to give affection and receive it, so that we learn what it means to love as Jesus loves us.

   We shall return to this process of integration later in this chapter. Here I simply want to make the point that masturbation or solo-sex is a common practice. Self-stimulation is not smutty or dirty, it is a part of most people's life at one time or another; the route many people take as they travel from immaturity and loneliness to personal integration and the wholeness God gives.

   Having written all that I have, I also know many fine Christians who have never masturbated. That does not mean you are not normal. Nor does it mean you should experiment. Perhaps you could use this chapter to deepen your understanding of the masturbatory problem so that you are better equipped to help friends who may come to you plagued with guilt because, for them, masturbation seems a huge obstacle to overcome.

What masturbation is not

I have already said that masturbation is not dirty or despicable, like graffiti scribbled on toilet walls. Some people feel as though it is dirty. There are several possible reasons for this. One is that many Christians scarcely dare whisper the word 'masturbation' in Christian circles. Even in a counselling situation a person will come to me and say, 'My spiritual life is in a mess,' rather than spell out the real problem: 'I'm plagued with guilt because of masturbation.' This hush-hush atmosphere is unhealthy and unhelpful and contributes to the fear that, if the word is taboo, it must point to a grievous sin. And for many of us, our background has added to the problem. When cleaning our genitals in infancy, our parents may have made their disgust known. We pick up the message: 'This part of me is foul.' We believe it. The message sticks. If our parents see us playing with our genitals, we

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might be slapped or told that we are naughty. Again, we register that for some reason this part of me is 'bad'. To compound the problem, few mature Christians ever admit that they have battled with masturbatory tendencies, so we draw the conclusion that we must be the only ones. We therefore paint a fearsome picture of ourselves: my private parts are foul yet I enjoy the sexual excitation they give me. No-one else shares this problem, and it is such shameful sin that the church does not even mention it. I am through and through bad.

   If this is the conclusion you have come to about yourself, it is perfectly understandable, but it is wrong. The truth is, as I have said, that solo-sex is common, a part of growing up, hushed up in the church because we have not yet learned to be real with each other, because we are afraid to call a spade a spade, because few people have taken the trouble to examine what masturbation is and what it is not. So let me underline the fact that masturbation is not the filthy, despicable practice some would suggest.

Not dangerous

Neither is it dangerous.

   Perhaps another reason why the church is so slow to speak to the agony some people suffer over the masturbatory problem is that we have not yet recovered from the hangover of the past: the views about solo-sex held by the Victorians and their forbears

   Donald Georgen reminds us of the prejudiced and unscientific anti-masturbation propaganda popular in the late nineteenth century. He refers to a lecture given by Henry Varley in 1883 where the claim was made in public that epileptic fits, gonorrhea and insanity were attributable to masturbation; that the loss of one drop of seminal fluid caused more bodily damage than the loss of forty drops of blood.

   At the same period, the view was widely held that masturbation was a destructive sin; and that those who practised it were stooping to self-abuse. Old wives' tales convinced masturbators that blindness, barrenness and impotence were all

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caused by this deadly enemy.

   Today we smile at the terror-inducing proscriptions. We recognize them for what they are: prejudiced nonsense. Today the pendulum has swung a long way away from this negativism. Young people are now being actively encouraged, by some, not simply to discount these proscriptions but to view solo-sex as a health-giving prescription. It is therapy, a journey into self-realization, a duty, some claim.

Not a panacea for all woes

In my view, the pendulum has swung too far. While we must refuse to listen to these old wives' tales or be bound by them, and while we must accept our genitalia as designed by God, fascinating, beautiful, we must also recognize the limitations and effects of self-stimulation. It is not the panacea for all woes some would claim. Unless we recognize this we shall not be motivated to move out of the solo-sex cul-de-sac on to the highway where we discover that sex is about loving others, not oneself.

   One of the reasons why I resist the 'masturbation is healthy' voice is that, after adolescence, masturbation has little, if anything, to do with the fascination we feel for the mystery of growth, and instead it has much to do with expressing loneliness, anxiety, depression, and a yearning for intimacy. Indeed, for most adults, the kind of tension-relieving quickie solo-sex I described earlier is replaced by auto-eroticism of a rather different kind. Technically, the process is exactly the same: manual stimulation of the sex organs until a climax is enjoyed; but the context becomes the world of make-believe: fantasy. A man might masturbate while imagining himself having intercourse with a girl he fancies or with an imaginary person or with a pin-up or TV personality. A girl might masturbate while daydreaming about the boy she wishes to go out with, or a real or imaginary hero.

   This kind of eroticism, like the more casual kind of auto-stimulation, is a language. The quickie variety could be saying nothing more profound than: 'My body is a mystery, fascinating. I'm glad to find an outlet for sexual tension.' The

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second, heavier kind, conveys a rather different message which must be interpreted accurately if we are to understand ourselves and others.

   Martin Hallett, in his helpful paper 'Masturbation', makes this sensitive and accurate observation: 'Masturbation may be the presenting problem but it is not the real problem. The underlying problems are usually loneliness, lack of fulfilling relationships, lack of direction, interest and excitement in life. A lack of self-acceptance and feelings of inadequacy can also lead someone to resort to a fantasy world of sexual relationships...'2

   The chief problem with this fantasy world we create is that it has little to do with real life. Indeed, it makes the harsh reality of everyday life even more difficult to bear. In our fantasy world our partner desires us, expresses this desire flawlessly, and brings perfect satisfaction. In this fantasy world there is a complete absence of pain and frustration. Thus, for a few precious moments our loneliness is alleviated by this imagined lover. The relationship we create is fulfilling. We find ourselves able to give love and receive it. Our secret world of make-believe offers colour, excitement, spice. Apart from the fact that it may simulate genital intercourse with a prohibited partner, which we shall look at later, this way of coping with life is as short-lived as the happiness a balloon gives to a child. A child adores a new balloon. But the shock and pain a child's face registers when the balloon pops is heart-breaking. And pricking the fantasy bubble is even more devastating. It does nothing to alleviate long-term loneliness: it adds to it. It does nothing to remove the sting of self-loathing: it accentuates it. Indeed it pushes some people deeper and deeper into the dark pit of introspection. That is why I put question marks over the 'masturbation is healthy' claim. Of itself masturbation is not unhealthy, but when accompanied by fantasy it is not healthy either. But is it a sin? Christians need an answer to this question: Is masturbation a sin?

Is masturbation sinful?

The church, as ever, is divided over this question. In certain circles the following dogma is still taught:

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Masturbation is objectively a serious sin. Except in rare cases, it is also subjectively sinful, and the average person who gives in to masturbation, either as a teenager or as an adult, commits sin.3

Many Christian leaders today challenge this blanket condemnation. John White, for example, says in Eros Defiled: 'masturbation is not, in and of itself, sin at all. Yet many people are convinced that it is sin and feel guilty when they masturbate.'4 And William Kraft goes further when he observes:

In the recent past, masturbation was often considered one of the worst sins. When people masturbated, they neither passed go nor collected 200 dollars, but went straight to hell and often died of guilt on the way. Many contemporary approaches go almost to the opposite extreme by considering masturbation as a sensible source of pleasure, a convenient tension-reducer or a way to realize body potential. Many mental health specialists say that it is a healthy practice.5

Some say solo-sex is sin. Some say solo-sex is not a sin. Some say solo-sex is healthy.

What does the Bible say?

Before agreeing or disagreeing with such conclusions, we need to examine what the Bible says about the practice of masturbation. Most Christians, particularly those who have been burdened with guilt on account of masturbatory activity, find it hard to believe that the word masturbation is not even mentioned by the Bible writers. If you search for clear guidelines there, you will draw a blank. The 'Thou shalt not masturbate' verse does not exist. The claim that masturbation is a sin of the most grievous nature cannot, therefore, be substantiated by Scripture. Indeed, the view that to masturbate is to commit sin is not biblical either.

   What the Bible does make crystal clear is that the kind of fantasies I described earlier are forbidden. In Matthew

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5:27-28, for example, Jesus says: ' "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart" ' (GNB).

   As we have already seen, when we masturbate in our cosy fantasy world, we do possess the prohibited partner and are possessed by them. In Jesus' view, such imaginations fall into the category of committing adultery in the heart. In Jesus' view, such adulterous thoughts should be purged. 'So if your right eye causes you  to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell ( Matthew 5:29 GNB). This strong language does not mean that we literally gouge out our wayward eyes or castrate ourselves. It does mean that we deal with the fantasies and refuse to be held captive by them.

   But what of the physical act itself: self-manipulation as a physiological necessity? Is this wrong? Or isn't it?

   The Bible leaves us in no doubt about what sin is: that which corrupts and spoils the life of each person born into the world; rebellion against God. The Bible does not hesitate to label specific sins: neglect of parents, abandonment of widows, refusal to obey those in authority, greed, discontentment, lying, promiscuity, adultery, unkindness, bitterness, hatred, resentment, obscene language and so on. The list is long. But the list nowhere includes a hint of tension-relieving masturbation.

   Indeed, the question needs to be asked whether the act, of itself, is not unlike scratching your head to relieve an itch, sneezing or stretching after a period of prolonged inactivity.

   Whether these are accurate parallels or not, it seems safe to assume that, since God is not in the habit of leaving us in doubt about the nature of sin, the practice of releasing pent-up genital tension is not, of itself, a sin. It does not fall into the 'defilement' category described by Jesus in Mark 7:21-23: ' " It is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean" ' (verse 20 GNB). It should not, therefore, provide an occasion for guilt.

   Dr. Leslie Weatherhead once summed up the situation well. When someone put the question to him: 'Is masturbation a sin

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or not?', he replied: 'It depends whether the picture on the screen of the mind at the time could be shown to our Lord without shame. If there is no picture on the wall, refuse to be weighed down by guilt. Too many Christians known to me wallow in unnecessary guilt about masturbation and forget that God may be wanting them to deal with other problems in their lives. But of course if the picture on the wall is of someone else's partner or a person to whom you are not married, whether that person is imaginary or real, then a way out of the problem must be found.

   We shall explore some possible exits later in this chapter. First, I want to pin-point several other reasons why it may be necessary to search for ways of abandoning masturbatory activity.

   The first is that masturbation can become an obsession. It can become compulsive, even addictive. As such, it becomes a kind of bondage which holds us in its grip. No Christian should be content to remain in bondage to any habit or way of life which denies them the joy of the freedom Jesus bought for them on Calvary.

   Another reason why some Christians may want to turn their back on self-stimulation is that, at best, it is love turned in on itself, and at worst, it is narcissism, inappropriate love of self. As Christians, our goal in life is so become more like Jesus. In the wilderness temptation Jesus set us a fine example of what it means to struggle against self-gratification; to refuse to live for self-gratification alone.

   A third reason why masturbation may need to be shed as an outgrown pastime is that, when fantasy is involved, it becomes a form of idolatry in which the imaginary people become sex idols and sex objects. This, of itself, debases our view of people created by God and turns people into playthings. But worse, it prompts us, if an opportunity arises, to translate our fantasy into activity, thus over-emphasizing the romantic and the genital in what could be a healthy, supportive friendship.

Some ways out of masturbation

'But how do you kick the habit? I've tried everything I know but nothing seems to work. I gain the victory for a few days,

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then I find myself slipping back into old patterns of behaviour.'

   Such confessions are not rare. I do not believe they are lame excuses. When masturbation has become a habit, it is difficult to uproot: difficult, but not impossible.

   First, we shall consider some possible practical ways out of masturbatory activity. Martin Hallett, in his paper entitled 'Masturbation', suggests that the person seeking to break free from the masturbatory pattern of behaviour should first seek to break the association of ideas. If bedtime spells masturbation, introduce another activity into the bedtime routine.

   I think of a friend of mine who wrote to me late one night and admitted that this letter-writing routine was an attempt to break this association of ideas; to cut himself free from the masturbatory activity which seemed to have a firm hold on him.

   Margaret Evening, in her book Who Walk Alone, also suggests that activities like reading a book (though not a romantic one), planning shopping lists, balancing the budget, designing a dress, might help to engage the mind until a stage of exhaustion is reached which guarantees sleep and eliminates the need to masturbate. For those who are unable to keep the light on late, she suggests a series of mental gymnastics in the dark!

Go back in memory to some moment of pure joy and relive that experience: a legitimate use of the gift of memory. Go back to holiday experiences — a mountain walk in clean, fresh air, a swim in a warm blue sea, a promenade concert, or an exciting discovery. Use every imaginative power to conjure up the sights, sounds, smells, feel of fresh air, the taste of different food, the wind in the hair, the lovely burning of a sun tan. These are bodily delights in which there is no shame. If your imagination is going to get to work anyway, make it work the way you choose and keep hard at it so that thoughts don't slip off onto unscheduled paths.7

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If these practical suggestions help, then use them. But recognize, too, that if you masturbate regularly and if this genital activity takes place in the context of erotic fantasy, to deal with only the genital activity is to tackle only the surface problem. It is essential not just to pluck off the part of the weed which you see, but to deal with the taproot. This is far from easy.

Use of fantasy

One powerful way to counteract the problem is to use fantasy to combat fantasy. Let me explain what I mean by this.

   You have been living in a dream world where the perfect lover satisfies your emotional and genital needs. You can do three things with this realization. Repress it, confess it, or listen to its hidden message.

   It is useless to repress such behaviour: to pretend this activity is not a part of your life. Confess it to yourself and to God. Don't wallow in self-pity or self-recrimination. Rather, recognize that failure of this kind is almost always a language, and determine to listen to the many layers of communication hidden here.

   If you listen carefully, you will almost certainly hear the inner you admitting the yearning for intimacy with a person of the opposite sex, admitting the readiness to receive and give such intimacy, admitting that the absence of this much desired 'other' creates loneliness.

   Instead of regressing into a fantasy world where these needs can be met, though all too inadequately as we have seen, determine to act upon the message which your sexual desire has articulated. Re-read chapter nine of this book. Discover how your loneliness can be met with fulfilling friendships, healing activities and encounters and resolve to reach out to others, not for genital intimacy, but for the emotional, spiritual and aesthetic intimacy we looked at in the earlier chapters of this book. Do not look on the masturbatory problem as an enemy. Rather, see it as the faithful friend who ever presses us to widen our horizons, who ever encourages us to discover our full potential, who ever persuades us to grow in maturity and in the likeness of Christ.

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   When you are tempted to fantasize or begin to feel unhelpful thoughts crowd into your mind, there is value in forcing yourself to sit up in bed, maybe even to switch on the light. Ask yourself: Who is playing the leading role in my dream world this time? Why is it this particular person? Why am I resorting to this kind of eroticism? What is so special about my dream world? What, in comparison, makes the real world so drab and unattractive? What can I do to brighten my real world?

   Such a procedure is drastic. You may have to force yourself to do it, but it is far more wholesome than resorting to secret love affairs of which you will be ashamed before God on waking next morning.

Listen to the language of guilt

If fantasy contains a message, so does guilt. Almost all Christians who masturbate feel guilty. The most efficient method of dealing with guilt is to listen to its accusing voice and to try to assess, from an objective point of view, whether these accusations are accurate or not. This is vital. Unless you do this, guilt about masturbation will exert the emotional pressure which will, in turn, create the tension which pushes you into masturbation. This vicious circle must be interrupted, not perpetuated.

   Perhaps guilt has been persuading you that you are dirty, for reasons I explained earlier in this chapter? Reject such accusations. Do not collude with them by admitting your culpability. Perhaps your parents were the kind who, even when you became an adult, always switched off the radio if sex was mentioned, or changed channels if erotic scenes appeared on television? Perhaps you gained the impression from this embarrassed behaviour that genitalia are shameful, that your sexuality is an embarrassment? Again, reject such attitudes. This is prudery and Victorianism, not the acceptance of our sexuality which is essential to emotional health and wholeness.

   But maybe guilt reminds you of your obsession with self, or of the fact that your fantasy world is a tawdry substitute for the real thing. If guilt points out such failure, don't

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wallow. Admit your culpability and, as you confess, ask God to show you how to take the kind of risks with friendship we have observed in earlier chapters of this book. Be excited that you are on the threshold of new discoveries in this field.

Keep clear of things which arouse

If you are serious about discovering an exit from the masturbatory maze, determine to steer clear of situations which you know will make temptation difficult to resist. I think of one young man who resolved, this time, to gain the victory. 'We'll have to stop wandering in and out of each other's bedrooms,' he said to his girlfriend. 'Seeing you in your nightshirt finishes me.'

   It is one thing to make these resolves, quite another to put them into practice. But such discipline is essential. Indeed, discipline is the key to success.

   Discipline can be fun. Discipline is not the same as repressing hostile emotions. Discipline acknowledges sexual urges, accepts them, affirms them, then chooses, quite deliberately, to deny them the pleasure of expression. In other words, discipline is lying in bed, listening to the inner clamour, the desire to masturbate, acknowledging that those feelings belong to you, but rising above them and telling them gently but firmly, 'I know perfectly well what you want but I am not capitulating to your demands today.' Such discipline is healthy, liberating, fulfilling. It assures you that you are not controlled by your genital urges but that you are in control. Such discipline, as William Kraft describes it, is simply putting your sexuality in brackets. Such discipline is the basis of all freedom.

Rechannel the energy

When we grow more experienced in the art of disciplining our sexual urges we also become more skilled at rechanneling all this energy into other activities. Such rechanneling should not be a result of pretence: 'Let's pretend we are not sexually aroused today.' No. Such sublimation, as it is called, recognizes the full force of the genital desire but recognizes also that it would be inappropriate to give those desires

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expression and therefore seeks other avenues: social, cultural, physical, aesthetic, spiritual, into which to channel surplus energy.

Mortify the flesh

Another way to deal with this particular habit is to put it to death, to mortify it. Paul makes it clear that in certain areas of our lives, to deal such death-blows is vital. 'If you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live' (Romans 8:13 GNB). 'You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions...' (Colossians 3:5 GNB).

   When Paul exhorts us to put such activity to death, he is not advocating playing games: 'I have no more need for genital gratification.' What it involves is recognizing to the full the urgent need you have, from time to time, to give your genital desires full expression, but at the same time refusing to give such urges space in your life and refusing to feed them so that they weaken and wither until an appropriate time for their full expression presents itself.

Prune your activity

Another way out of the masturbation problem is to resolve to cut down on your masturbatory activity but in doing so, to prune first those activities which are combined with fantasy rather than those which simply relieve tension.

   It also helps to share the problem with one or two trusted friends, to ask them to pray for you, to ask them to help you to keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus while you seek to integrate your sexuality and your spirituality. I know it will not be easy to break the sound barrier and mention the dreaded word 'masturbation', but I firmly believe that if you pluck up courage and mention your struggles in this area others would identify with your frustration, pray for you and support you.

Some facts to remember

Many, many fellow pilgrims are stumbling along the route to maturity. Most discover that progress in this particular area

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of spiritual maturity is often slow. Instead of giving in to discouragement, therefore, remember that very often God gives, not immediate victory, but the courage and ability to try again after a period of failure.

   Whenever you fail, Satan, the great Accuser, will not be far away, whispering lies and condemnation. 'You're a hypocrite. You'll never make it.' Instead of caving in, resist the devil and he will slink away. Recall the fact of the matter: you do not have to remain in bondage to the practice of masturbation. Bit by bit, you can replace fantasy relationships with real, affectionate friendships. Meanwhile your body will not burst from sexual tension even though it might feel as though it might from time to time.

   I sometimes fear for young Christians determined to deal the death-blow to masturbation. Their personal crusade is engaged on such an intense level that I sometimes question whether they are even conscious of other far more deadly beams jutting out of their eyes. It is worth asking, 'Is masturbation the biggest blockage in my life, Lord, or is there something else which needs urgent attention first?' We must remember that God is far less harsh with us than some of us are with ourselves. He wants us to enjoy the freedom he won for us.

   In our spiritual journey we are not unlike the tadpoles I was watching just before I began to write this chapter. Some were small and skinny, others were big and plump. Some seemed almost ready to sprout their first leg. Some would soon be completely transformed into frogs. No-one chastised the tiny tadpoles for lagging behind their bigger brothers. Each had reached a fascinating stage of growth. And so have we. We must therefore hold two things in tension: the patience to wait for God's timing for our spiritual spurt of growth, and the discontentment which ensures that we do everything in our power to ensure that this growth will happen. And whenever we fail, some words from a Marilyn Baker song can encourage us to begin again:

When you feel that you just can't pray,

You've grieved the Lord and he seems so far away,

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Don't lose hope, for he wants to say,

'My child just begin again.'

When you feel you can't try anymore,

It seems you've failed so many times before,

God still loves you, he's the door

For you to begin again

(From Whispers of God)

Note for chapter 10

1. A.C. Kinsey, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1984), p. 503.

2. Martin Hallett, 'Masturbation' (available from True Freedom Trust).

3. Quoted by Donald Georgen in The Sexual Celibate (Seabury Press, 1974), pp. 199-200.

4. John White, Eros Defiled (IVP, 1978), p. 38.

5. William F. Kraft, Sexual Dimensions of the Celibate Life (Gill & Macmillan, 1979), p. 145.

6. Quoted by Margaret Evening in Who Walk Alone (Hodder and Stoughton, 1974), p. 32.

7. Who Walk Alone, p. 34.

Chapter Eleven  ||  Table of Contents