It has always been interesting to me that many young men and women struggle with masturbation, but seldom will you find people talk or write about it. As a teenager, I struggled with masturbation and when I look back and reflect on the journey that led me to freedom from my sin, I realize there were several life lessons that challenged me.
Like many young men and women, I justified my behavior because I thought I wasn’t hurting anyone. Around my junior year of high school, a series of events in my life led me to become motivated to try and stop. I suppose I may have seen it as a challenge. It wasn’t until I began battling the sin that I realized how much I was enslaved to this behavior. Why was masturbation a problem? I couldn’t stop – and having no control over my actions was something that scared me. Looking back on that time in my life, I realize that sexual sin had infected everything in my mindset, my relationships and my personal identity. The scariest thing that I discovered about myself is that I had grown cold to love. My sexual behavior had led me to treat every woman that I met as an object to feed my lust instead of a person to be treated with love, dignity and respect.
The battle took time, but there were several things that I learned while dealing with my own sexual sin:
Purity is impossible without grace. When I first tried to stop, I routinely failed. It wasn’t until I started praying that I began to find some strength and support. I began to turn to the sacraments as a place for accountability and support and I quickly realized that, while the chains to my sin were not something that I could break on my own, with God’s grace, I found strength that I did not realize that I had.
The Battle is won in the mind. Masturbation and other sexual sins are bad habits – and like any bad habit, it sometimes only takes a few weeks to change the habit. The real battle is in the mind. Before the action ever happens, the imagination leads a person to lust and the action of sexual sin follows the thoughts that preceded them. In order to cut off the action, you have to battle in your mind. This is best accomplished by eliminating pornography, trashy shows and lonely behaviors and replacing them with positive friendships, encouraging media and messages, Scripture and healthy habits.
You will find confidence every time you win a battle. The more often you defeat temptation, the more you will find confidence that you can win every time that temptation comes. At first, the battle against lust is very difficult, because you are not accustomed to resisting temptation. Every time you win a battle, your confidence increases and the power of the temptation decreases. If you win the battle consistently, you will find the temptation to lust loses its power and eventually, goes away almost entirely.
It is better on the other side of the battle. I will never forget the moment when I realized that this habitual lust no longer had power over me. It was a life changing realization of freedom. The experience of joy and freedom was so tangible that I gave my entire life over to God – I had discovered that the love of God in my life and His blessings were far greater than the chains of addiction that had enslaved me for years.
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children.