The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

I stopped the pornography stuff. I don't use the Internet for that anymore. I always think about something else, and I escape from it. The problem is: When I masturbate, I feel guilty. I did it yesterday, and I didn't think about women or anything, I just did it. I thought a lot about why I feel guilty, and it's because I think that if my parents asked me if I had masturbated in the past, I would have to say the truth. And it would hurt them because they believe it's wrong. The church we go to teaches that it is wrong. In other words: I feel guilty for masturbating because I think about how my parents would feel if they knew about it. What to do?


Answer

If someone sincerely believes that masturbating is wrong, I don't advocating going against your conscience. "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23). But what I find more often is that young men, in particular, masturbate anyway and then are consumed by guilt thinking they are the worse sinners before God, and the problem is that the self-condemnation is over a rule not found in the Scriptures!

For some men, masturbation can be wrong because they cannot separate in their mind sexual arousal and lustful thoughts. The Scriptures teach that pornography and sexual lust is wrong (I Thessalonians 4:3-5). But there is nothing for or against masturbation; rather we find hints that refer to it as a fact of life. It isn't right for others to condemn in regards to a man-made rule. It is the same type of thing Jesus said the Pharisees were doing. "Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'"" (Matthew 15:1-9). Making up a rule and attributing it to God is wrong (Proverbs 30:6), and it doesn't get better by insisting that others follow the made up rule.

Your parents, your father especially, are not likely to ask you if you masturbate. Some things are just too personal for even a parent to want to know about; just as you most likely don't want to think about your parents having sex. Your father was a young man at one time. Odds are extremely high that he masturbated at times. He might have thought it was wrong then, or was told that it was wrong later, but he remembers the struggles controlling sexual urges. And it is because of that memory he won't mention it except, perhaps, in generalities.

What you should do is come to terms with whether you think it is right or wrong according to God's teachings in the Bible. Then accept that as your understanding. If others bring up the topic, use it in a general way to get people to open their Bibles and think about what God actually said. Help people to understand that lust and pornography are wrong, but to also stay within the bounds of what God has taught.

There is also a physical cause behind the guilty feeling. See: Why do I feel guilty after ejaculating?