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Questions and Concerns About Masturbation

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Is sexual self-stimulation a sin, or just a harmless and natural way to release sexual energy? What can a person do to break the habit of masturbation if they feel guilty about it?



Masturbation is a controversial topic. The Bible never directly addresses it, and Christian leaders have different opinions about its spiritual and moral implications.

For our part, we don’t think there’s much use in labeling the act of masturbation itself as “sin.” In fact, we think that misses the point.

The larger meaning and purpose of human sexuality

Sex isn’t intended to be all about me. Instead, it’s designed to function as part of the give-and-take of an interpersonal relationship.

The Bible has two important things to say about the meaning and purpose of sex:

  • Sex is central to the process by which husband and wife become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
  • Sex and marriage are intended to serve as a picture or symbol of the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

These theological perspectives should frame our approach to the practical problem of masturbation.

In short, we should never heap guilt on those who find the urge to masturbate almost uncontrollable — and who might be driven to spiritual despair because of it. At the same time, we should do everything we can to help people see that self-gratification doesn’t match the purpose, goal, and basic nature of sex.

Pointing to truth, breaking the habit

God created men and women to experience sexual fulfillment on a much higher level: within marriage. We don’t want anything to threaten their chances of knowing that joy to the fullest.

But masturbation is a threat.

It can become extremely addictive because of the powerful hormonal and psychological elements of human sexual behavior. Individuals who become addicted to masturbation might carry it with them into adult married life. There, it can become a serious obstacle to healthy marital intimacy.

Masturbation also frequently involves indulging in sexual fantasy. And fantasy, says Jesus, does represent a serious breach of a person’s mental and spiritual purity (Matthew 5:28).

One thing to remember is that masturbation often starts as self-soothing behavior. It’s a way to cope with pressures and try to meet basic human needs for peace, security, comfort, and reassurance.

So if you struggle with masturbation, plan to replace the negative behavior with a valid way to address your underlying needs. Talk things over with a friend, take a hike, read a good book, listen to music, pour yourself into a project, or serve other people.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ultimately, the pain a person tries to numb with masturbation is just another sign of a need for God. And that need is at the center of every human heart. Only a relationship with the Lord can fill that empty space in a deep, lasting, and satisfying way.

Would you call our licensed or pastoral counselors to talk more? They’re available for a free over-the-phone consultation at 1-855-771-HELP (4357). And they can also point you to a list of qualified counselors practicing in your area. They’ll be more than happy to help in any way they can.

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