From an early childhood we are curious about our bodies. And sure we are for certain even curious about others’ bodies. Curiosity is as good thing and if handled well can be a great teaching tool. (Another Blog Topic)
Our bodies naturally react to touch, smell, sight, sound, and basically the world around us. We are taught at an early age what is appropriate and what is not. Often times, in fact, most of the time we are told what is wrong without any explanation or reason. We don’t do something because it is wrong. We just don’t do some things, but why? I have thought and still think a lot about that. I see parents that tell their children not to eat or drink something without any explanation of why not, “just don’t do it” they command. Many times, we are guilty of the same thing about things we should do and should not do. We are not good at explaining the entire reasons why we should or should not do something. I had a friend, actually he is still a friend who taught this principle really well. I remember one day he brought all of his children into the computer area of the home and showed them a very graphic video of the insides of the colon and what certain foods do to destroy our colons. His wife was really frustrated with him for showing that to their children until a few days later she was standing outside the kitchen area and overheard this conversation.
“Are you really going to eat that after you saw what it does to your body?”. The message was given and received and taken to heart. The children were not only told not to eat certain things, it was also explained to them in detail why not. I learned a great lesson when his wife told me about that story. It is not enough to just say “don’t”, we also need to explain the reasons “why”. Just like the foods we eat and fail to explain we do the same thing concerning things about our bodies. We tell our children and others “don’t” and often fail to discuss the “why”, leaving confusion and frustration instead of confidence and direction.
Some things are hard to talk about. I get that. I also get how much better my life would have been had someone taken the time to explain certain things to me. As I grew older, I got the message that certain things were off limits even before I really even understood what the certain things were. And there were many things, that, had I been told, and had them explained to me, a lot of shame and frustration could have been avoided.
I would like to share one example in particular that I experienced as a young man. I actually didn’t go through pubetry until I was older. So, I really never experienced a wet dream and actually had no idea what it was. I clearly remember as a young missionary having this experience and feeling like I was so evil and that I was going to hell. Especially since I was a missionary of the Lord and this kept happening. It caused so much stress and shame in my mind. It affected my work and my spirit in the I thought I was unworthy to be a missionary. I already was having a very difficult time as a missionary, from learning the language to self-esteem problems I was struggling. To top it off, now I had a huge personal problem and had no idea what to do. Finally, after suffering for months I opened up to my companion. It was the hardest thing ever for me to do. What would he think of me, but I had to know what was happening. I told him and he busted up laughing. And explained to me that it was a perfectly natural thing for my body to do. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. I had done nothing wrong. Wow, you cannot imagine the sense of relief I felt. It was amazing. And the anger I felt that I had to suffer because no one took the time to talk to me about it.
That’s kind of how masturbation is. No one ever talks about it. No one ever talked to me about it. I don’t know very many men that it was explained to in a good way. Oh yes, it was talked about in hushed tones, leaving one curious about it, but never really discussed in a good, open way. When it was brought up by adults it was with the notion it was a horrible thing to do and the shame of doing it was horrible. The burden of doing it and having to confess and once again not having it explained or talked about in a positive way. Leaving the Bishops office feeling slightly better because you got it off your chest, but full of shame that you even did it and still no understanding how to deal with it. “Just don’t do it” was the advice given. Never was it explained or talked about in a way that did not heavily imply an intense feeling of shame or guilt?
We are often left confused and shamed by what we feel and from our actions. What maybe started out and could have passed by easily as just a thing of curiosity becomes issues that beat us up for years, even perhaps a lifetime.
With that in mind. I want to spend a few minutes talking about masturbation. First off, I have really changed my belief system about masturbation. I know I might offend some who reads this blog, but whether you agree or not is not the issue. My purpose is to open up our minds to being able to discuss issues like masturbation in a positive healthy way that leads to moving forward without shame.
Whether or not masturbation is a good thing or not is not the topic here. I believe strongly that particular discussion is between you and God. You have to decide for yourself, but with that in mind I hope to bring some understanding to a difficult topic.
In all my men’s work, the one thing I have learned is how shame affects our lives. Men of all ages feel shame over masturbation. The one thing I have learned is the first place to start is taking away the shame. I honestly don’t feel that anyone who masturbates is going to hell. Masturbation is part of our physical side. We are sexual beings, and discovering and learning how to deal with our physical bodies is part of the journey.
There are some things I believe in strongly. Although it might not be your belief, I ask that you consider what I am saying. I feel that if something controls us, no matter what it is, it is wrong. The life mission of each and every one of use is to overcome the natural man. If something is controlling us, especially in the extreme, we need to take a look at it and perhaps consider steps we might need to take to overcome that thing. One thing we need to understand is that shame is a tool of Satan. He lives to make us feel shame. Once we feel shame, we are captive, and he wins major battles. God and our Savior never use shame to get us to do things. They encourage us to improve and should feel remorse, but shame is not from God. The first thing we need to work on is getting rid of the shame. Shame keeps us in a downward spiral. We feel shame and lose hope ,and consequently often times adopt the attitude of “what the hell, I am a failure, I might as well just keep at it, there is no hope.” That mind-set leads us to failure and frustration. Satan wins in this situation. .
I recently was talking to a young man about masturbation. It was a great conversation. It went something like this.
Me: So how is the masturbation thing going? (We have talked about it before)
Him: What do you mean, how’s it going?
Me: I mean how are you doing? What’s going on?
Him: Well, if you mean am I doing it, yes.
Me: Ok define “doing it”. Is that once a week, or what?
Him: More than that.
Me: Twice a week?
Him: Yeah, I guess.
Him: Yes, sometimes a few times a day
Me: Interesting. May I ask you a few questions?
Me: Ok, think about this, what are your reasons? Do you do it to escape, isolate, medicate?
Him: That’s about right. All three.
Me: Ok, let me ask you a question. Are you ready?
Me: Ok, who is in control, you or your penis?
Him: Wow, that’s a great question.
Him: I guess my penis.
Me: That’s what I thought.
This young man and I ended up having an amazing discussion about control and overcoming the natural man. Not once did I shame him, but we did talk candidly about him taking back control of his body. One of the things I have learned is that if masturbation controls us then we have a problem. If it is addictive or abusive, we have a problem. If it involves porn or mental visualization, or fantasies of people we are not married to, we have a problem. If these are the cases, we might need to seek help. One help is first to recognize that there is a problem that is taking control. My suggestion to this young man was to take back control of his penis. I know this sounds crude, but it works. I told him that he needs to choose a time and day. “Don’t let it control you,” I told him. You choose. Don’t use porn, and maybe start out abstaining every other day. On the off-days it’s hands off, on the on-days it’s hands on. Once you have mastered every other day, then start abstaining every two days or three days. That way you start gaining control. The purpose was to teach him that he has the power. If I had said, “hands off completely,” it never would have worked. But having him learn was a wonderful way for him to overcome and move forward gaining confidence in his own strength.
The biggest thing I have learned in interviewing many men is that the ones that conquer, and that may look different for everyone, are the ones that let the shame go. Letting shame go gets one out of the downward cycle of failure.
To wrap it up. Masturbation is a personal thing between you and God. I am not going to tell you whether it is right or wrong. I believe you have to decide by the inspiration of God for you, and that choice really depends on where you are on your journey. And I will never judge another person, because I have no idea where they are and what they are dealing with in their lives at that moment. But this I do know; Shame does no good. Let go of the shame, and after you let go of the shame take a sincere look at where you are and how you feel. We live in a shaming culture, especially within the Christian culture, and have become accustomed to living with shame. Shame holds us back from reaching our full potential as children of God.
My recommendations are these, if your penis is in control, meaning masturbation is addictive and out of control, start taking back control, get some help. Help may be as simple as an accountability partner. If you are using pornography or have are fantasizing, or are visualizing to masturbate, get some help. Help looks different for everyone. If it is something that happens randomly or something that you, at this point of your life, feel the need to do, don’t shame yourself. Remember, life is a journey, we are here to experience and as long as we are looking to God our experience will change and our weaknesses, if that is what they are to you, will become your strength. Just enjoy the journey and don’t let masturbation define who you are as a person. You are so much more. And if it is a part of your life at this moment, do not let that fact keep you from doing what you need to do to bless those around you.
Satan defines us by our weaknesses. God does not. He encourages us to take a look at what we are doing and where we want to go and when we are ready, He gives us the strength to move forward. Take control of your life and don’t let experiences control you in all areas of your journey.