Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Conquer This Habit?
“I began masturbating when I was eight years old. Later I learned God’s view of the matter. I felt terrible every time I gave in. ‘How could God love someone like me?’ I asked myself. I felt sure that I would not make it into God’s new world.”—Luiz.*
PERHAPS you, like Luiz, have been enslaved to the habit of masturbation. You know that Jehovah would be pleased with you if you resisted the urge and exercised self-control, a fruit of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:5, 6) But at times you give in. After each relapse, you conclude that you are a lost cause, that you are incapable of living up to God’s righteous standards.
That is precisely how young Pedro viewed himself. “When I relapsed, I felt terrible,” he says. “I thought that I could never atone for what I had done. I found it hard to pray. I would start by saying: ‘Jehovah, I don’t know whether you are going to hear this prayer, but . . .’” A young man named André had similar thoughts. “I felt like such a hypocrite,” he says. “It was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. I found it difficult to sit through Christian meetings or to participate in the ministry.”
If your feelings are similar to those of Luiz, Pedro, or André, take courage. You’re not alone, and your case is not hopeless! Many young people—and older ones—have struggled with masturbation and have been able to overcome it. You can too.*
Dealing With Guilt
As already noted, those who have fallen into the habit of masturbation are often plagued with guilt. Without a doubt, being “saddened in a godly way” can give you the incentive to overcome the habit. (2 Corinthians 7:11) But excessive guilt can be counterproductive. It can make you feel so discouraged that you just want to give up the fight.—Proverbs 24:10.
Strive, then, to put the matter in perspective. Masturbation is a form of uncleanness. It can make you a ‘slave to various desires and pleasures,’ and it fosters attitudes that can be mentally corrupting. (Titus 3:3) At the same time, self-masturbation is not a form of gross sexual immorality, such as fornication. (Ephesians 4:19) Hence, if you have a problem with masturbation, you need not conclude that you have committed the unforgivable sin. The key is to resist the urge and never to give up your fight!
Sometimes it is easy to become downhearted after a relapse. When that occurs, take to heart the words of Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up; but the wicked ones will be made to stumble by calamity.” A temporary setback does not make you a wicked person. So do not give up. Instead, analyze what led to the relapse, and try to avoid repeating the same pattern.
Instead of continually berating yourself for your problem, take time to meditate on God’s love and mercy. The psalmist David, who was no stranger to weakness, stated: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) Yes, Jehovah takes into consideration our imperfection and is “ready to forgive” when we err. (Psalm 86:5) On the other hand, he wants us to put forth effort to improve.
What practical steps can you take to conquer your habit and to avoid a relapse?
The Value of Confiding
Despite the publicity given to sex in a number of lands, many people still find it difficult to talk about sex in a serious, dignified way. In your case shame might make it difficult for you to bring up the subject even to a confidant. One Christian who struggled with masturbation for several years commented: “How I wish I could have summoned the courage to talk to someone about it when I was a youth! Feelings of guilt plagued me for many years, and it seriously affected my relationships with others and, above all, with Jehovah.”
Whom should you talk to? The best person would be someone who is spiritually mature, preferably a parent. You could start by saying: “May I talk to you about a problem that is bothering me a lot?”
Mário decided to talk to his father, who proved to be very sympathetic and understanding. He even admitted to Mário that he himself had battled with the habit when he was younger. “My father’s honesty and sincerity encouraged me greatly,” Mário says. “I reasoned that if he had been victorious, I could be too. I was so moved by my father’s attitude that I broke down and cried.”
André gathered the courage to talk to a Christian elder, and he is glad that he did.* “As the elder listened to me, his eyes filled with tears,” says André. “When I finished, he assured me of Jehovah’s love for me. He told me that my problem is a common one. He promised to check on my progress and to bring me more information from Bible-study aids. Talking with him, I resolved to keep up the fight—even if further relapses occurred.”
Like Mário and André, you can find help in your efforts to conquer the habit of masturbation. Follow the advice in the accompanying box, “Take the Offensive!” Yes, be assured that you can win the battle!
More articles from the “Young People Ask . . .” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Names in this article have been changed.
Although the people quoted in this article are males, many females also struggle with masturbation. Hence, the advice given pertains to both genders. Note, too, that this article discusses masturbating oneself. Doing it outside of marriage to another person is included in what the Bible calls fornication, a very serious sin in God’s eyes.—See the article “Young People Ask . . . What’s Wrong With Premarital Sex?” in our issue of July 22, 2004, pages 12-14.
A young woman may want to talk to her mother or a mature spiritual sister in the congregation.
TO THINK ABOUT
▪ Why is it important to remember that Jehovah is “ready to forgive”?—Psalm 86:5.
▪ What steps will you take to overcome the habit of masturbation?
▪ Why need you not feel ashamed to ask for help?
▪ How can you best keep your mind on things that are chaste?
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A Relapse Does Not Spell Defeat!
How easy it is to think: ‘I failed, so I may as well give up.’ Fight that mood. Refuse to let a temporary setback, or even several setbacks, spell defeat for you.
Consider an illustration: If you were walking up a flight of stairs and slipped back one or two steps because of stumbling, would you reason, ‘I’ll just have to walk back to the foot of the stairs and start over’? Of course not! Why, then, should you apply this false reasoning to the fight against bad habits?
Feelings of guilt often follow a setback. You might carry these feelings to an extreme by concluding that you are no good, that you are of weak character and do not deserve anything good. Do not allow yourself to indulge in such exaggerated guilt. It saps you of the strength that you need to resume the battle. And remember this: The greatest man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ, came to redeem sinners, not perfect people. So none of us will do things perfectly at this time.—From Awake! April 8, 1991, page 15.
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Take the Offensive!
▪ Force your mind onto other matters.—Philippians 4:8.
▪ Avoid looking at things that will stimulate improper desires.—Psalm 119:37.
▪ Pray for “power beyond what is normal.”—2 Corinthians 4:7.
▪ Keep busy in Christian activities.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
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For more information on overcoming the habit of masturbation, see chapters 25 and 26 of the book Questions Young People Ask . . . Answers That Work, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.