The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

I'm 14 and I've gotten lots of information about the stuff on your web site from school, the Internet and elsewhere, but I'm a Christian and your site helped me think about this stuff from a Christian's viewpoint that we don't have here.

I took your puberty stage calculator and I'm only a 1.6. I know jealousy is wrong, but I see other guys that are bigger than me and more developed than me and I feel jealous. So I find myself praying for becoming more advanced than I am, physically I mean, and that's a terrible thing to pray for because it's from jealousy and not love. I'm also very afraid because I have shameful thoughts and I worry that God is keeping me from growing so I can't act on these thoughts. I haven't found the answers to any of this and I don't want to talk to my mom cause she doesn't like to talk about stuff like this and my dad has a brain injury and doesn't really talk anymore. So I got a lot of comfort from reading what your church wrote.


Answer

While I'm sorry to hear about your father's difficulty, I'm glad that I can serve as an alternative source which is worthy of your trust.

The range for puberty to begin is fairly large. Some start as early as 8 or 9 and some don't start until 16. The early starters are embarrassed because they become different from everyone else they know, but it is balanced by getting stronger than their peers as well. The down side is that they tend to be shorter than their peers when everyone finishes developing. The late starters are embarrassed, too, because their lack of change makes them different from all their peers. When development ends, they tend to be slimmer than others -- not quite as muscular.

What you've said tells me that you have started puberty, but only recently -- probably about a year ago. For boys there isn't much in the way of outward signs at first unless a person knows what to look for. Mostly it is the "shameful thoughts" which gives me the hint that the change has started. What you are feeling is the beginnings of sexual arousal. Because it is brand new, it is also more difficult to keep under control. That you are aware that some thoughts are not proper to pursue means you are going down the right path.

In teaching us not to worry, Jesus asked, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (Matthew 6:27). God made your body and it is developing as God designed it. He is not holding you back because of your thoughts. But you do have the advantage that since you started developing at an older age, you will be a bit more mature regarding controlling your thoughts and behaviors than your peers. And I very much doubt that He will speed things up for you. Like everyone else, you need time to adjust to the changes. There is a reason development takes 8 to 10 years for a young man.

Instead of worrying about when you will get to your destination, learn to enjoy the journey because you won't travel down this road again in your life. "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity" (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10).

I can't believe you took the time to write back to me. I read your note carefully, and I went and looked at Mathew 6 and I read it many times. Do you think that sometimes you read something and don't think about what it means at all because it doesn't seem like it's important right then? I'd read it before but it just goes right past you when you don't think about it enough. I guess what I'm saying is that it makes a big difference to have somebody show you a piece of Scripture when you're worried about something.

What I didn't say in my message before is that my problem is more than just shameful thoughts. I've acted on them by touching myself. I know it's sinful and I also know what it can lead to if I keep doing it. It's never gone all the way to the end, but I'm afraid that that's because I can't not because I have the strength to stop myself. I want to get these thoughts away from me, but I just keep thinking about them. Some of my thoughts are of perversions, even some of them that you wrote about on your web site. I don't know what I can do about it.

Anyway, thank you for listening. I could never tell my pastor about this or my mom. Sorry to bother you with this stuff, I know you have your own congregation.

I answer questions because I enjoy helping people find solutions to their questions in the Bible. You are not interfering in any way with my other duties.

I've found from experience that it is easier to ask personal or embarrassing questions of someone you don't know because it can't be held against you. In part that is why I'm willing to answer many unusual questions for people. The questions and their answers are still important.

Now concerning the issue you raised, the technical term for what you are doing is called "masturbation." It is when you play with your genitals because they create a pleasurable feeling. While younger children will sometimes play with their genitals, it is more out of curiosity than anything else. It is only after puberty and development begins that stronger sensations of pleasure come. What you are doing isn't unusual. Almost every male has done it -- though not nearly as many would like to admit it because it is so personal.

As an action by itself, there is nothing in the Bible speaking against it. And when you get a bit older and are able to ejaculate semen, there can be purpose behind it. However, the danger is not in the action but in the thoughts used to accompany it. At your age there is curiosity about sex because it is newly relevant to you. But Satan will use that curiosity against you, in part because of your lack of experience in that area. It isn't just the desire for sexual stimulation or even sexual release, Satan wants you to tie those strong feelings to perverted and sinful ideas. To put it bluntly, Satan is trying to use temptation to train you to lust after sinful expressions of sex.

The way to battle temptation is to learn everything you can about what God has taught about the area in which you are being tempted. "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" (Psalm 119:9-11). With that knowledge you can put up a battle against Satan. "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). The solution to your problem is that when your thoughts stray into wrong paths is to stop what you are doing and get control over your thoughts again. It is hard, but it is needful practice for you because in this way you are learning to control yourself. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me"" (Matthew 16:24). Please notice that I'm wording this in a general way because sexual matters is just one aspect of life in which young men must learn to gain self-control.

What I suspect is happening is that your body is begining to produce semen but all the mechanisms for expelling it are not yet fully developed. One of the downsides of the male body is that as your seminal vesicles fill, the urge for sex rises. This can be a pain in the years before you are married. As you are beginning to see, vague and sometimes specific thoughts of sex constantly intrudes. It is roughly equivalent to what happens when your bladder gets full. You can't ignore for long because the "alarm" mechanism constantly intrudes into your thoughts.

Very likely, one of these nights your body is going to take matters into its own hands, so to speak, and you will experience a wet dream. All a wet dream is masturbating in your sleep to the point of ejaculation. It can be messy, but it is something men learn to deal with. What will be more disturbing will be the dreams because your brain is to supply all sorts of disturbing ideas to accompany the arousal in your sleep and you won't be able to control it. Just remind yourself that you can't control your dreams and don't worry that the dreams are defining who you are in any way.

For now, I would like you to read to other answers dealing with masturbation so you can learn what the Bible does say and where the true issues are located in this matter. See: "Is masturbation unacceptable?" and "Is masturbation sinful or not?"

You are welcome to write any time about any matter on your mind and I will do my best to give you a biblically sound answer.

You are very kind to me. I read through all the Scripture you talked about in your note, and I've read many of your advice on your web site. You're right about it being easier to talk to a stranger. I am going to try to change my thinking to a good sex thinking, about love and marriage. It is hard for me. I even thought about sex when I was in church. It wasn't during the service, it was at a prayer breakfast, but it's still a terrible thing to have done. Part of the problem is that I see my friends naked after gym class, which we didn't have to do before this year, and it's made me jealous and think about sin. I'm shamed by thinking about bad things and am scared about being found out too. I keep trying to figure out why me? 

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).

We're studying about things we can be assured of in our Sunday morning class and I Corinthians 10:13 is the verse we are currently working on memorizing. It answers your question of "why me?" Every temptation a person faces is not unique to him. There are millions of other people facing the same problem -- some successfully overcoming the temptation and others falling victim to Satan's schemes. What you can take away as an assurance is that your situation is not unique and you are not alone. In fact, in this particular temptation you would find that the problem is very widespread, effecting just about every boy during adolescence. The reason you don't hear about it is because of the same reasons you expressed -- shame and fear.

In an odd sense, you have an advantage over your friends. Because you've started a bit later, you are also a bit older and more mature in facing these new temptations. You probably have a better understanding of the dangers than many of your friends did when they had gotten to the same point of development.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that being tempted is a sin. If that were true, then Jesus would have sinned since he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4). But since Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), then we know that temptation, by itself, is not a sin.

Your body has reached a point where sexual feelings can be generated, even though you haven't yet reached the point of being able to act on those feelings. Since those feelings create forms of pleasure, your brain is experimenting with when is the appropriate time to trigger these new emotional responses. As you are discovering, in the early days the brain tends to be trigger happy. It is your response to those feelings which trains the brain to limit the feelings. The fact that you are basically telling yourself "NOT NOW!" is a part of the process of learning control of your sexual feelings.

You will find that you are more likely to have inappropriate thoughts and erections during times when you are bored or a little bit tired, and, yes, that can happen in worship or in other meetings where you are not actively participating. Satan is going to use those weak moments to tempt you into thinking about inappropriate sex. The proper response is "No!" when those thoughts occur. "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Don't beat yourself up that Satan is targeting you. Keep your focus on what is right instead and reject evil thoughts every time they appear.

I don't know if your body has reached the point of producing erections yet, but situations that produce erections also trigger sexual feelings and thoughts. The primary trigger for erections is sexual ideas. Most of us grow up keeping our bodies private, but this can't always be practically done. Society as a whole continues to see nudity in front of members of the same sex as being "safe" because it isn't acted upon. It has been that way for thousands of years and even with the spreading concept of homosexuality, I doubt it will change much. Even though you have no sexual desire for other boys, the situation is enough for your developing and oversensitive mind to trigger sexual arousal.

Erections are caused by a set of small muscles clamping down on the veins leaving the penis. The back pressure on the blood supply is what creates the erections. When you get nervous, you tense up and often during your adolescent days your body tenses more muscles than it needs to -- including the ones that trigger an erection. Most of us are nervous about being naked in front of other people, so guess what usually happens? Then when you realize that your penis is getting hard, you become more nervous, which just furthers your erection. Even before your body develops the full ability for erections, the cycle still takes place. While it might not be quite as apparent externally, the internal responses are just as strong.

As you develop further, you will slowly learn how to keep yourself from getting tense and to distract your mind from sexual ideas. It won't stop all erections when you don't want them, but it will help to decrease them. So when you have to undress in front of others, think about some problem you are trying to solve -- something as far from a sexual themed as you can get, such as math. Also, keep your eyes above the waistline. Men are visually stimulated and this way if one guy gets an erection, hopefully you won't notice and have it trigger an sexual response in you.

Hard as it might seem right now, there really is no reason for envying your friends. In just a few years you will have caught up to them. It seems like forever to you at the moment because you have only lived 14 years. But when you look at the time from a 80 year lifespan, it isn't really all that long. Besides, I doubt you are in a rush to get married at the moment. You probably don't plan to marry until your twenties and by that time you will be fully mature.

Ive been thinking alot of about being tempted by seeing things and whether that's a sin. Everybody else changes their clothes and takes showers with other guys and dont think about it all. Temptation is not a sin, bit Im scared and ashamed about what is tempting for me. Not because I do anything wrong, but because I think some of the other guys are so beautiful, not their hearts and souls but other stuff. What I learn from your is that I shouldnt worry about the temptation but about what I think about later, because I can control that. And I guess what your saying is that its ok that I touch my private parts as long as I'm thinking about healthy relationships. I've never actually masterbated, only rubbed myself through my underwear. But I have trouble thinking about healthy relationships, like marriage and children, instead of unhealthy acts.