Saturday, February 25, 2006

The 'M' Word

Self-gratification. I don't think I've been resisting temptation the way I should be.

Sure, i've been avoiding certain other things - eating chocolate, buying clothes, gadgets, and toys i don't need, having actual and physical sex - but still. I'm not without sin. Temptation is definitely there.

I'd like to say that I've done well at maintaining pre-established boundaries like not having sex right now. While I may not be giving in to those temptations, I'm finding myself giving in - perhaps too easily - to other temptations.

The mind is alot harder to discipline than the body . . . .

Gratifying oneself is not something people usually talk about that openly. (Actually, I have been in some social circles where gay men talk about it without shame.) I'll try not to be so crude but i hope you know what i'm talking about.

Masturbation.

Well, if i'm not going to have sex it seems like it would be the best and natural alternative, right? Sexual temptation is hard (no pun intended. okay, maybe a bit of a pun intended). It's difficult to resist. There's that surge of excitement that flows throughout the entire body. It's like you can actually feel every single hormone being released to swim free throughout the blood stream - touching every nerve in the body to cause an arousal, a warm sensation, and an impulse towards an object. The very sight (or even thought) of one's object of affection (aka 'that HOT guy or gal') can trigger such a response.

It seems like solo-gratification is the safest thing to do if having sex with that person isn't an option for one reason or another. Maybe physically, it is. There are times when I just need some kind of an outlet - relieve tension so that I can move on with my life. Sometimes I just can't get certain things out of my mind.

But is it the healthiest thing for me to do spiritually?

I know, loaded question. Probably not.

Whether or not Jesus would be okay with a person relieving physical tension is probably not the point. I would suppose that Christ would be more concerned about what was going on in my heart when such a thing were occurring. I've spoken to many guys who say that they are able to relieve tension without picturing someone in their imagination to assist the process. But for me, I typically am thinking of someone (or sometwo or somethree).

Lust.

I realize that for some guys, they are simply relieving tension and not entertaining fantasy. I can't necessarily say that for my own case. If i'm honest with myself, i'm not "simply relieving tension". I'm lusting. And i'd think that Jesus would want more from me.

I agree with what much of the ex-gay ministries (as do many churches) teach about this - that it's a sort of idolatry. (Don't get your panties in a bunch, I don't agree with everything that ex-gay ministries teach!). When I am lusting after a person and going so far as to fantasize about him during a solo session, there's an element to it that is completely objectifying. Most of the time, I'm not considering his heart or his desires. Rather, it's all about me. My wants, needs, desires, pleasures, satisfaction. It's a completely selfish experience for me.

Most of the time. Not all of the time.

There are other times when, at least in fantasy, there's an emotional component involved and we're "making love". I'm imagining something mutual.

But it's not real. It's an illusion. It's a lie. And it's hard for me to accept that emotionally bending to a facade isn't oppressive. I don't always think of this in these terms during the temptation but I've always viewed Satan as the Master of Illusions and Deceit. He's all about tricking me to doing something stupid. He's all about lying to me. He's all about distracting me. He's all about giving me false love. So when I think about it in that way, self-gratification while fantasizing about another person is not "simply relieving tension" but is "simply entertaining lust".

Yeah, i think it's wrong. I do it. Argh I keep doing it! Even though I know I shouldn't. But as I've been good at not having actual sex because of pre-established boundaries that I've set for myself (and with the discernment from the Lord), I'm finding that my mind still roams free.

It's as if maintaining physical restraint permits imaginary freedom in my thought life. But i'm probably missing the point when i think that way. Jesus said that it's not just about committing adultery, it's about the lust. Jesus said that it's not just about committing murder, it's about the hate. He is more concerned about the condition of my heart because He knows that if my heart is in alignment with Him, then I won't commit anything.

Oh what a wretched heart I have!

But Christ is there. And He redeems it.

I know, someone out there is probably thinking that I need to quit being so hard on myself. But i'm not so much concerned about the masturbation itself. I'm more concerned about what's going on in my heart when I do it. That's what I want to keep in check.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:1-2)

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)

The Lord is my God and I want what He wants for me.

Lord, if i've set up false gods to focus my heart and thoughts on (even for those solo moments), forgive me. I'll try to be more faithful to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

10 comments:

Jeanine Byers said...

Hey, Eric!

Great post! I do think you're being too hard on yourself and I personally don't think masturbation is wrong (even including fantasy). But I understand how you're feeling about it.

Juliabohemian said...

brave post. I don't think masturbation is necessarily wrong and I know that God understands the temptation that you feel. What is it that troubles you about the experience? Is it the person you are thinking about or the fact that they are another guy that troubles you? If they do not feel the same way about you, or worse yet are not even gay, then it can be a source of endless frustration. If I were you, I would avoid mastubating altogether at least until you are able to resolve your feelings about this person.

My belief is that if I am continually feeling some level of guilt about something, then it is probably God trying to convict me or speak to me about it. God knows your suffering and your dilemma, so he will judge your heart based on that.

Anonymous said...

Think you're right to "guard your heart with all diligence." Asking the tough questions you are asking and being transparent with yourself (as well as us--thanks--BRAVO...or I should say BRAVE-O!) is the path to discernment.

Your motives seem true...you want to love and follow Christ. Seems like your heart is in the right place...so like you said, it's less about the actual act, and more about the heart.

Here's another thought to throw in the mix. This is an empowering verse that has freed me from a lot of self-guilt. "If our heart condemns us...God is greater than our heart."

Just something for you to look into as you continue your quest toward holiness.

Great post!

*Christopher said...

Eric,

Healthy Christian spiritual directors recognize that often much is going on when one masturbates. At heart is a desire for relationship, in my opinion. Don't be too hard on yourself. Getting obsessed about it can be a far greater idolatry, not to mention mental and emotional unhealth, than letting it be and focusing on asking God that you desire a significant other. Obsession often fuels rather than reduces burning; that's something a lot of Evangelicals don't seem to get.

Ian said...

The topic you raise is one with which I have wrestled for a very long time without really resolving it. For some time I thought that the desires would cool with maturity, both physical and spiritual maturity. The nature of the desires and the pattern of masturbation have changed as I have aged but the thought that in time I would put to bed once and for all the lust that fuels masturbation has been shown to be only wishful thinking. The problem persists. It is a reality of my life which I can't dismiss as being O.K. with a righteous God and quite yet easily and often find myself doing. What a wretchedly weak individual I am! All I can do is cry out for mercy; for God to treat me not as I deserve but to treat as I don't deserve, with compassion and grace.

Anonymous said...

Eric. been there done that and am still doing it. Going through all the emotions and guilt, yet thinking ,well God knows my heart and forgives me if I'm sinning which most times I would say I am.Its a dilemma we will continue to experience as long as we live in this earthly body.I have argued cried and sought release from the act of masturbation to God but to no avail so I guess its ok ..........to a point.
Its just like I have asked God that if being "gay" is a sin then why does not GOD heal me and make me "straight" as He first intended in His creation.There is no definite answer , so we need to just keep on living and trusting in God as He is the final judge .

Mark said...

I'm not quite a biblical scholar,
but have noticed many conflicts with scripture or possibly man's translation / interpretation.

Masterbation per a recent biblical conversation " Onanism "
(forbidden spilling of one's seed)
Hardly a guy alive who has not been there and done that countless times.

Are we All dammed ?

Do believe God created us in his grand image and a valid root to one's self sexual happiness is part of that. Appreciate your attempt to be Christ like.
Don't think GUILT and Self Induced Suffering is part of a good plan in that direction. I would hope GOD Loves us enough to show the Current Path which I suspect is not necessarily an Anachronistic one from millenium past.

Bless You !

Elizabeth said...

Gret post! However, I don't think Masturbation is wrong at all. It's safe, gives no STD's and it relieves stress!

I think of it more as appreciating my body and keeps me from temptations of just going off and...er fornicating with everybody.

I just can't seem to believe God would be against something that doesn't cause any harm to yourself or others.

Michael said...

Add me to the list of those impressed by your willingness to address this issue.

When hearing confessions (something I no longer do) or in spiritual direction (something I still do), I usually ask the person struggling with masturbation what else they are doing to make themselves feel good. I don't think God worries about it that much, but it is an easy fallback when we could be doing so many other self-affirming and creative things. I advise people to attack it indirectly by working up a list of things to do regularly that nurture them and give positive pleasure. Then maybe the other temptations will not occur so frequently or not be so difficult to move beyond.

I am not saying just think of things to do "instead of" when temptation comes. We all know that when the hormones rage, we are not doing our clearest thinking right then. Have positive fun all the time more as a way of preventing the problem from arising. Enjoy your-self.

Eric said...

*grin*

yeah, fun post eh? Thanks everyone for your comments, thoughts, and input.

Here's the thing. The point i'm making in this post isn't about whether or not masturbation is okay. The point is in assessing the condition of my heart when I am masturbating.

I'm simply being honest with myself about the fact that 99.9% of the time that I masturbate, I am doing it in lust.

It's not about the 'M' word, but rather the 'L' word. From a Christian biblical point of view, it's clear that lust is a sin.

I'm not hung up on the fact that I continually do it. I'm not filled with unending shame and guilt. I live in grace. But just because I have the privilege of living in grace, because of Christ, it doesn't mean that I ought to minimize sin.

Yes, I masturbate. Alot actually. I'm simply acknowledging that the lust behind the act is still a sin that Christ died for. It's not something I should be quick to entertain.

That's me.

Blessings friends,
Eric