This article is going to point out the clear reasons why masturbation, when performed with the purpose of providing an artificial form of sexual pleasure is always morally evil. I will then offer three helpful ways to combat this very addictive behavior. I will build my arguments against masturbation upon the Natural Law and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
As in my other articles on chastity and sexual purity, we also begin here with the premise that everything that God created has a distinct and unique purpose to itself for the benefit of all of creation. From the trees to the elements, to the metals, to the animals; each thing of creation has its own purpose and these things are also a part of a community of things purposed by God for the betterment of the whole, and, ultimately, the salvation of humankind. In other words, all of these distinct and unique things created and purposed by God are ordered to glorify Him.
What is Natural Law? Natural Law is the axiomatic law of God that cannot be changed or altered in any fashion. Natural Law is God’s created order of things that is distinct from other forms of law, such as ‘positive law’ (meaning “man-made law”, not “good law”; cf. posit) that arises to govern political communities, societies, or nation-states, and thus can function as a standard. The nature and purpose of things inform our understanding of Natural Law. For example, the nature of gravity is to always pull things towards the center of mass. That is, no matter how many times that we may vote to make gravity stronger, or no matter how many decrees, edicts, or opinions of the Supreme Court that may be issued to reduce the pull of gravity, nothing can change its nature – God designed it and we cannot change it.
In regards to masturbation, we know that male and female genitalia were only created for each other because it is only when those two sexual organs come together that new life has the potential to be created. Indeed, that is the only manner in which new human life naturally reproduces itself. Moreover, there is no other place where a man can place his genital that can result in the creation of one of his own kind than inside of the female genital. It is also a part of the natural order of things that reproduction between the sexes should be physically pleasing. If sex were painful perhaps the human race would be radically smaller. Therefore, when a man or woman artificially stimulates their genitals, outside of conjugal sex in marriage, it violates and defeats the very purpose for which they were given to us in the first place. It’s like using an automobile for a sailboat. Not only are you not using it for what it was created and purposed for, but you’re going to ruin the darn thing.
It is difficult enough for us to always honor the purpose and order of those things truly created by God, but at least if we would take the time to consider their Creator we might be able to relearn and recommit ourselves to using what God has given us rightly. For when we truly trust that God is Holy, we simultaneously trust that the purpose and order of things that He has made are also holy. Our body has a created purpose and masturbation violates that purpose.
What Sacred Scripture Says About Masturbation
Perhaps the clearest thing Scripture has to say about using our bodies for immoral purposes, which masturbation unarguably is, comes from 1 Corinthians 6:13C-15A, 17-20:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
What the Catholic Church Teaches About Masturbation
Paragraph No. 2352 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, the force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduced to a minimum, moral culpability.
Here the Catholic Church points to her long Tradition of always teaching that masturbation is morally evil, then raises the elements of why it is morally evil according to the natural law and concludes with a treatment on factors in the moral culpability of the offender.
Masturbation is a selfish act to please self. It’s not about anyone else but you doing what you want to do to please yourself. It is true that many factors can contribute to one’s commitment to masturbation; such as the level of knowledge that masturbation is morally evil, length and frequency of exposure to pornography, how long they have been engaged in that pattern of behavior, environmental influences in children and/or adulthood, and etcetera.
3 Actions to Free Yourself from Masturbation
1. Make a Decision to Stop: I think it is the most obvious thing in the world to say that if you want to stop masturbating then you need to make a clear, conscious, and firm decision to stop. Anyone can stand on the train tracks and think about jumping off before the approaching train hits them, but if you really want to save your life, then you need to make a decision to do so. No one else is going to make this decision for you. And this is not a decision that you make just once and be done with it forever. On the contrary, you have to wake up every morning and make a decision to honor your body as the Temple of God. Every time you feel the temptation to violate your sexual purity is yet another occasion when you need to recommit yourself to being chaste. One day at a time is this battle fought.
In fact, society is going to tell you that nothing is wrong with masturbation. You will hear that masturbation is healthy and that body needs your assistance to artificially release built-up sperm. You will hear that it is natural even though I have already proven that it is not a part of the natural order. You will hear these things because people love the easy way, and masturbation is a tough addiction for many people to quit. But if you want to be free of the self-lust of masturbation then start by making a firm decision. Write it down, tell someone, and stay committed to it, even if you fall down and do it again – just get back up and recommit yourself to being free from it.
You will hear people tell you that masturbation is a personal choice, that what they do in the privacy of their own bedroom does not affect you. There are two errors with that line of thinking. The first is the issue of relativism; that is, it is either true or not true that masturbation is morally evil – it can’t be both. Therefore it is not just a personal choice; it is either a bad personal choice or a virtuous choice, and I have already proven that masturbation is not a virtuous choice. Secondly, if you are living your life in a way that brings glory to God then you are living your life in a way that somehow positively affects me. In contrast, if you are living your life in a way that glorifies Satan then you are living your life in a way that somehow negatively affects me. We are all connected beings – no one is living unto himself on an island. There are not many degrees that separate us or our children from each other. Therefore, our decisions somehow always affect one another, and it is all of our responsibility to help one another make better choices so that we all might make it to Heaven.
2. Call Masturbation what it is: Call it what it is – it’s not just masturbation, it is the Unclean Spirit of masturbation. This unclean demonic spirit is not of God, and no matter how many times you masturbate, you will never please God by serving this unclean spirit. God is never going to praise you or bless you for masturbating. Masturbation never helps you spiritually – it always hurts. By giving in to the unclean spirit of masturbation, you grieve the Holy Spirit. Masturbation can never draw you nearer to God. It is morally evil and if you want to stop doing it then recognize it as a sin and call it a sin that, inasmuch as it feels good to the body, is not worth spending eternity in Hell for.
Most people will do many things in the company of their friends or in private that they would not do around their children because they know that that particular behavior is morally wrong. If masturbation were truly a virtuous act then we could do it right there in front of our children, parents, family, and boss. If masturbation were truly a virtuous act then it wouldn’t be featured in pornography. On the contrary, masturbation is something that most people always do in secret. But even in secret, it doesn’t please God. Even in secret, it is still morally evil.
3. Don’t do it Alone – Rely on God and His Patient Grace to Help You: I have known people who have decided to quit masturbation and were immediately able to stop – cold turkey (as they call it), but for many people, especially for those who have masturbation as a real addiction it takes time to learn how to feel good about self without having to turn to false, temporary, and artificial substitutes for true joy. Our God is a patient God. Therefore, don’t give up on yourself, because He won’t give up on you. Keep praying – keep cooperating with grace.
Your best help to quit masturbation or any addictive or sinful behavior is the grace of God. Recognize that masturbation is self’s attempt to make self-feel good in a way that is not pleasing to God. Therefore, when you feel the urge to masturbate recognize that that is what is going on with the body, and what you want to do right then is repeatedly invite God into your sinful desire by calling on the name of Jesus Christ and He will give you the grace to move you past your urge.
Again, this may take time, and you may fall down more times than you feel like you have been standing up, you might despair and begin to think you can’t stop, but keep calling on the grace of God, persevere in grace, take advantage of intercessory prayer, and the Sacraments of the Church. What has helped me the most, especially during those moments when the temptation is beating me down, is asking our Blessed Mother Mary to pray for me. Without fail, her prayers always come through and help to put my body at peace. The purest and chaste Virgin Mother is of great help and support. But, most importantly, just be patient with yourself, because God will not lose His patience with you. He loves you and desires for you to be Holy and will go to any means necessary for you to be all that He has created you to be. Therefore, trust Him and trust your commitment.
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