As the Creator of sex, for which I think we’re all grateful, God knows the absolute best way to use it. When we choose to express our sexuality as it is intended to be expressed, tremendous graces and blessings enter the world.
Sex is the marital vows, translated into body language. My anatomy expresses the reality that I am someone’s gift. Sexuality is not meant to be self-serving. Sex is designed to be a complete, life-giving, faithful, free gift of self, and its purposes are the built-in results: babies and bonding.
Masturbation, however, turns sexuality in on itself. Masturbation is all about me: my pleasure, my desires, my loneliness, my stress, my sleepless nights, my gratification, my “whatever.” Masturbation is incompatible with love (doing what’s best for the other person), and that is why it’s a mortal sin. There is momentary pleasure, but no openness to life, no giving, and no receiving. It is a band-aid approach for whatever struggle the person hopes it will relieve him or her. What appears to be a remedy only brings shallow and temporary relief, but never healing.
In fact, it usually deepens the wound, especially because masturbation is so addictive. Addiction is an assault on freedom. Between fixes, an addict (to drugs, masturbation, cigarettes, pornography, alcohol, or anything) may feel stressed and on edge, consumed by her craving and anxiously seeking an opportunity to get the next fix. An addictive behavior limits a person’s ability to love, because she cannot give what she does not possess. Until she dominates her own desires, they enslave her.
If you are struggling with an addiction, talk to a counselor or priest who can help you overcome it. You are not a freak, a loser, or a lost cause. You are also not the only one who struggles with your addiction. God—who desires to free you from every entanglement so that you can experience true love, joy, peace, and happiness—loves you. God’s grace is bigger and stronger than masturbation and/or any other addiction we face.
I don’t struggle with the temptation to masturbate, but it has burdened friends I love very much, both male and female. For added perspective, here are some other Catholics who are talking about this issue:
“Natural” by Steve Gershom
“Light of Hope” by Steve Gershom
“Love Life Podcast – Not Quite Sex” by Matt Smith at Life Teen