What’s wrong with masturbation? I think of it as getting rid of your temptations without leading anyone into sin.

Masturbation does not “get rid of” temptations any more than prostitution does. Both may temporarily relieve sexual desires, but our goal as Christians is not simply to get rid of temptations but to glorify God with our bodies. The idea that masturbation can be used to decrease sexual desires is like saying that lighter fluid can be used to extinguish a fire. If anything, masturbation incites lustful thoughts and teaches a person that he or she deserves—and needs—sexual gratification whenever the desire arises.

To understand why masturbation is wrong, we need to step back from the world’s constant clamoring for the fulfillment of sexual “needs” and go back to God’s plan for sex. Sexuality is meant to be a gift between a husband and wife for the purpose of babies and bonding. When it is taken out of that context, the gift is degraded and, in the case of masturbation, altogether ceases being a gift. The purpose of sexuality is abandoned, because the center of the sexual act becomes “me” instead of “we,” and the person is trained to look to himself for sexual fulfillment. The gift of sexuality is misused for the sake of lifeless pleasure.

When people misuse their sexuality in this way, they may begin to use pleasure to change their mood, release tension, or forget their loneliness. Masturbation becomes an escape. It may pacify them, but it will never satisfy them. They use the fantasies of their mind and the pleasures of their body to flee from reality and the call to love. Their goal in sexual activity has been reduced to merely receiving pleasure instead of showing love. If men and women have trained themselves to use their sexuality in this way, why would this suddenly change once they are married? The husband or wife will simply use the spouse as a substitute for the fantasies. The problem is that the lust will be transferred to the other, not healed within.

Furthermore, if the person has formed a habit of using lust as a means of dealing with stress, he or she may continue to turn to various forms of lust (porn, masturbation, infidelity, and so on) as a remedy to the stresses within marriage. Instead of seeking consolation in a healthy manner, the person learns to find solace in pleasure.

Getting married will not cure one’s problem with masturbation. Because masturbation has trained disordered impulses in the person, the true pleasures of marriage—though far superior—may not appease his or her warped attachments. Where will one turn to find those pleasures within marriage? Often he or she will continue to struggle with masturbation, to the sorrow and distress of the spouse and to the detriment of the marriage.

A person who does not preserve his own purity when alone will have a difficult time remaining pure with another. If he lacks self-control when alone, he will be unable to properly give himself to his spouse when the time comes. You cannot give what you do not possess. So if you do not have self-control, you cannot truly give yourself to another. To the extent that there is no gift of self, there is no love. Therefore, if you want to be able genuinely to love your spouse, you must build self-mastery.

Although the habit of masturbation can be difficult to overcome, it is possible. Click here for some tips.

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