Confronting Masturbation

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Q. I've been told that masturbation makes you less of a virgin. Is that true? Does my virginity mean less because I've done that? And now that I've confessed this mistake to God, what should I do to keep from masturbating?

A. Technically, a virgin is someone who hasn't had sexual intercourse. So masturbation has no effect on your virginity. It doesn't make your virginity mean less. But the concerns with masturbation are that it can become a habit that leads you further from God, fills your mind with impure thoughts, and makes your virginity a lot more difficult to keep.

Here's what I mean: When you masturbate, you're focusing on sex. You're imagining what it would be like. You might even be thinking about sex with a particular person. All that thinking keeps sex in the forefront of your brain (it's usually only a row or two back as it is!). So, when you're on a date or alone with someone you like, those sexual thoughts make it difficult to think about much else, such as what you like about this person's personality or how much fun you're having at the bowling alley. And when you focus on sex, you're a lot more likely to end up having sex.

There's a passage in the Bible that has nothing to do with masturbation but everything to do with the kind of life God wants for you. It says, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV). You have a full life to experience and masturbation takes you away from it. Yes, sex is a wonderful gift from God, but so are your friends, hikes in the woods, baseball games and playing Trivial Pursuit with your little sister. So try to keep your mind on noble, pure, admirable and others-focused things instead of sex and self-focused things—and masturbation is one of the most self-focused things in the world.

I'm so glad you've confessed this and accepted God's grace. And I hope you will keep asking for God's help in moving away from masturbation. It will probably take some time, so don't give up. If you find yourself tempted, well, you are far from alone. It doesn't mean you're an awful person or God isn't listening to you. It means you're human and you need the self-control that only comes from God. Also, find an accountability partner or older mentor you trust. Be honest and let this person help you deal with this issue. Identify what tempts you and try to avoid those situations. Maybe it's being online when no one is home. Maybe it's watching R-rated movies. One girl once wrote in saying she realized she couldn't watch guys play basketball with their shirts off—and so she stopped. That's the right idea.

You are not the only person to wrestle with this. So don't be afraid to seek advice from devoted Christ-followers who have conquered this issue with prayer and patience.

Ignite says: Read these articles about overcoming masturbation: "Every Guy's Struggle" and "My Struggle with Lust".

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