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Masturbation, sex with self, usually accompanies porn addiction. With 70% of Christian men and one third of women viewing pornography as the surveys show, many believers are struggling with a habit that is largely ignored by most churches. In this episode, Mike looks at how masturbation affects us chemically, emotionally and spiritually, then gets into the process of breaking free.
Overcoming Masturbation – Transcript
This radio program is PG13. Parents strongly cautioned: some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13.
Jesus’s mission was to comfort those who mourn, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and open prison doors for those who are bound. For those who want more than status quo Christianity has to offer, Blazing Grace Radio begins now. And here is your host, Mike Genung.
MIKE GENUNG, HOST, BLAZING GRACE RADIO:
Hey, Mike Genung here and welcome back to Blazing Grace Radio. And you heard that PG13 warning, so if you have four and five year olds in the car, then you might want to take that to heart a little bit, because we’re going to be delving into a topic that a lot of people are struggling with, but there is very few voices talking about this openly. And that topic is masturbation. And you hear me talking about pornography and masturbation all the time, but I’ve never done a show focused solely on masturbation before.
There are a lot of people who are – men and women – who are struggling with this issue. Have you ever been to church and, I don’t know, heard the word mentioned? Or had a sermon on it? But it is something we need, because there are a lot of people who are in bondage to this stuff. And yeah, I know the outside world would say something like… you know, “There’s nothing wrong with it,” and “It’s good“, but I’ll tell you from the decades I’ve had experience helping people with this and being around others, I’ve never heard a person say “I had a great time having sex with myself last night”. But I’ve heard many – and we get emails from many every day – saying, “I struggle with masturbation. I hate it. I want to get over it. How do I break free from it?”
So a couple… There’s not a lot of surveys out on this, but when you know that 70-80% of men are viewing pornography, masturbation is always connected and coupled with it. And it’s not just a man’s problem. Not by a long shot. And the gen – the female gender – women are struggling with that more and more. Porn and masturbation. So those numbers continue to go up. I saw one survey recently that said that among 18-30 year old females, 70% are now struggling with viewing with pornography. So you can attach masturbation to that.
So this is a survey that came out in the Daily Mail in the UK, January of 2022. And the UK is the world’s 2nd largest consumer of porn. And to our shame, the US is #1. So the numbers are going to be similar with both countries. And what they said is this. There were two universities that took part in this survey. And men in the UK normally masturbate an average of 2-3 times per week. Researchers said people were more likely to attribute the increases in porn use and masturbation to boredom and more free time. So, “Got nothing else to do, so I think I’ll have sex with myself.” Men in the UK normally masturbate an average of 2-3 times a week, while women do so once a week.
And then this was from a 2009 survey in the US. Both for both boys and girls – we’re talking youth now – engaging in masturbation was associated with greater odds of engaging in sexual relations with a partner, compared to adolescents who did not masturbate. So masturbation is a doorway to promiscuity and other types of sexual issues including oral sex, they said, partnered masturbation, and other types of intercourse.
So this is a big deal that a lot of people are struggling with. This is not just a one or two person thing, and it’s the same thing with pornography. This is a big deal that a lot of people are struggling with, and so… you know, if this is just like 5%, maybe I wouldn’t even be on the radio, but when you have 3/4 of the men in your church and mine viewing pornography and masturbating, and a substantial amount of women with the same struggle – especially youth – we cannot back off from this. We have to dive in and equip people on how to break it.
So a couple of… let’s look at a little bit on masturbation. The act itself. I mean, it’s having sex with self. And so, from the chemical standpoint alone, there’s a hormone in the brain called oxytocin. Oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger. It has an important role in many human behaviors, including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, romantic attachment and bonding. Bonding being the keyword. One study found that some hormones are released in 400% higher concentrations during sex than masturbation, including oxytocin.
So basically what happens is during sex, oxytocin shoots through the roof. So does dopamine. In masturbation, oxytocin stays flat line. It does not go off. So it’s wired into our brain chemistry that masturbation does not work. So you’re literally malforming your brain every time you have sex with yourself.
But let’s talk a little bit more about it. I mean what is masturbation about? It’s about self. Sex with self. And what people don’t realize is when you get caught up in this, is you get caught up in “me”. I want an orgasm today. I want an orgasm right now. If I’m married, “Oh well, my spouse isn’t there. I think I’ll take matters into my own hands and go do that”. But it is very damaging, because what happens with sex is we bond with what we have sex with. So if we’re having sex with self, there’s an emotional misfire that occurs. And we’re literally bonding with ourselves. The self becomes supreme, and what the self wants. And this is all so subtle, we don’t understand this.
So what we’re doing is and then physically what we’re doing, we’re training ourselves to have an orgasm quickly. To finish quickly. So what do you do? How do you think that affects the marriage bed? Now all of a sudden I go to have sex with you know, we go to have sex with the spouse and we’re a short story in bed. And then the wife can be left behind. And we train ourselves that sex is just about a physical act when it is far from it. It is about physical, emotional and spiritual connection. There is no connection in masturbation.
What happens after we have sex with ourselves?
There’s always a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and often shame. Tell me, what’s good about those things? It robs the wife, emotionally and physically. You’re basically stealing from your wife – or your husband, because again, this is not a man thing – when you’re doing that. Because sex is supposed to be something devoted to the spouse and the spouse only. It promotes the instant gratification mentality, that I have to have what I want, when I want, when I want it. And it promotes all about “me”. Sex is about, you know, “me”, fulfilling my desires and my needs.
It also fires up the flesh. And as believers, that is the last thing we want, is the flesh having more control and more ground in our lives. I haven’t masturbated since 1998, and I can tell you what I used to – it used to make me so ashamed – was that, you know, I would read these stories about these awesome Christian believers, men and women, and I look at myself and, “My gosh, I don’t even have the strength to say no to my basic urges.” It was… It was… I felt like a hypocrite all the time, so it really rots the character. And then it only feels good for a few seconds. We work ourselves up to that, and then, you know, what are you left with?
And then some people will say, “Well, masturbation ain’t in the Bible, so it must be okay, right?” Well, if you use that logic, then snorting cocaine or smoking marijuana isn’t a problem because those things are not in the Bible, either. But you’d say, “Wait a minute!” There is a clear principle of a prohibition of drunkenness.” And so we have to look at the principles in God’s word, not just the specific areas that may or may not be there.
And so, principle #1: The only time sex is ever sanctioned in scriptures in the context of a marriage between one man and his wife. That is it. There is never, ever a time when masturbation is offered as a viable means for dealing with sexual desire. So in 1 Cor. 7, Paul is encouraging believers to be single. And I’ll read from 1 Cor. 7:9, where he says,
“But if they do not have self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Remember, he’s talking to single men. And if you read the context of the chapter he’s encouraging them to stay single. So if masturbation was an option he would have said, “But if they do not have self-control, let them masturbate or let them marry. Because that’s better than to burn with passion.” That option is not there ever in scripture.
And then masturbation – another principle – masturbation is never offered as a way to deal with stress, depression, discouragement, or other emotional problems. So you’re basically using a physical issue to deal with an emotional or even a spiritual problem. And so masturbation will not fix or resolve those issues. It’s a counterfeit Band-Aid. And then when it comes to comfort, we are to receive our comfort from Christ and others, the connection of other believers.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.” That’s 2 Cor. 1:4.
So we get our comfort from the Lord first. Learning how to have a solid connection, a true relationship with Him that goes way beyond head knowledge, and that’s part of it. And also comfort from people, the body of Christ, the comfort they provide and the comfort of our spouse.
And then another principle: we are commanded in scripture to master our bodies and their urges, not to be enslaved to them. So this is from 1 Cor. 9:27, where Paul writes
“I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified”.
I control my urges. They do not run my life. And the problem with letting your flesh run your life is it’ll run you off a cliff eventually. And then when you let masturbation run your life, you’re opening that door for the flesh to have more ground in your life. God’s vision for men and women is to be strong men and women of character, who love their spouse, serve others, and stand for the truth, and they’re spiritual warriors and fighters. It’s really hard to be a spiritual warrior and a fighter when you don’t have enough character strength to stand up against the urges.
So how do we overcome this?
On the chemical side, what they have found is to rewire the brain, what is effective is first: exercise. Consistent, vigorous exercise. So I like to hit the weights 3-4 times a week. And the thing about exercise is it replaces the use of masturbation, or sex in any form, as stress relief. Exercise is a fantastic stress relief, and it also plays a part in rewiring the brain. Abstinence rewires the brain. And then they found that meditation, which to us Christians – prayer. Prayer has a powerful effect on rewiring the body chemistry.
Also to overcome this you must be part of a tribe. A lot of people have tried to overcome lust, porn, masturbation, whatever it is. You can’t do that in isolation. James 5:16,
“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.”
That’s not an option. That’s a command. That’s something every believer should be engaging in, so… And that’s the great tragedy of the Church today. And what I see when I travel and I ask believers to put up their hands if they’re meeting with another believer once a week, usually only 15% at the most put their hands up. And I’ve seen numbers lower than that, around the 10% mark. So if you’re isolated and trying to go this alone, it’s not going to work. I’ve been helping people for years with this, and I tried to break out of it in isolation myself. It doesn’t work, because isolation breeds lust and sins of all sorts.
And then, part of it is having a perception and awareness of those sexual urges and desires. They don’t last forever. And part of what we do is say, “Oh my gosh. This is so powerful right now, this is overwhelming me, I’ve got to give up.” Well, it’ll be tough for maybe, you know, whatever, several minutes. But as you resist and stand up and turn and connect with God, or connect with others and pray, it will go away. It does go away. And you will overcome.
I have… in my books I’ve written about turn and connect. Which, when we are hit with any type of temptation, what I do is I turn away from the temptation. I don’t try and fight it. I don’t try and wrestle with it. I don’t try and wrestle with those thoughts. Lust thoughts, when they come, I just look to God, I say, “God, would you strengthen me right now? Would you give me what I need? I don’t want to have sex with myself.” Or if I’m struggling with the temptation to look at women, I’ll just say something like, “God, help me to want only my wife,” or, “Lord, I’m hungry for you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Fill me with your strength.” And in doing that, it cuts the temptation down to size.
So turn and connect is very powerful. And prayer is very powerful. And let’s be honest, this battle’s not going to be easy. If you’ve spent years, if not decades, which most men have – and women – who have before they finally decided to get help with this. So if you spent decades training your mind, your emotions, and even spiritually to turn to self sex, there’s going to be a battle involved. The Enemy knows how to push your buttons. There’s spiritual warfare involved, so you have to learn how to be a spiritual warrior, a prayer warrior. And you’ll be on your knees a lot and in God’s words a lot. But there are breakthroughs available to you, and to every believer. He’s given us the tools and the weapons we need.
And again, I want to keep going back to you, got to be a part of a tribe. You got to be a part of a community, I mean, with at least one other man, every Friday. When I say at least, I mean, that’s a meeting with one guy every Friday. And then sometimes I meet with other brothers during the week. And we’ll be accountable with each other and support each other, what we’re going through, and praying with each other. That’s what the body of Christ is supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to function. Not a bunch of isolated believers showing up on Sunday morning, checking out the performance and going home. There’s supposed to be connection and community.
Acts 2:42, you’ve probably heard me say this before. And they were devoted to what? Teaching. Fellowship. Prayer. Community and prayer, big ones, along with the teaching. When sexual desire hits, remember that sex is about connection with another. Remember that it is about connection with the spouse. You are one Spirit with the Lord and he dwells in your temple. Instead of misfiring and masturbation, boldly approach Abba, who – he calls himself that in Scripture – “Daddy”, at the Throne of Grace and ask for his strength and comfort.
You can go to Hebrews 4:16.
“God, I want to connect with you right now. I’m hungry for you right now. Would you fill me with what I’m looking for right now?”
Hungry for comfort. Or stress, “God, I’m going through a real rough time right now with stress, anxiety, fear,” Whatever it is, you go running to God. You learn to have an ongoing prayer life. As we’re told in scripture, pray without ceasing. So you want to keep that channel of spiritual communication open to the throne room of Heaven.
And the first few minutes of the pull or the urge, are always the toughest. It’ll feel – it may feel intense, like you’re going to be overwhelmed. And that’s part of what the Enemy wants to do, is to come at you and say, “Oh, you just might as well give up, because this is just too much for you to deal with, so you might as well just give in.” And maybe you glanced at porn or whatever, and I remember that those words would go up through my mind, you might as… “You’ve gone this far, you might as well just finish the act.” And no, you can always hold the line and say no, I’m not going any further. Turn off the computer, walk out of the room. You can start praying and praising God, or shoot off a text to a brother and ask for prayer or whatever it is. But no, you never have to keep giving more ground. You can stand firm. We read that several times in the great chapter where we’re given the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Stand firm, hold the line, you don’t have to do anything.
Sometimes I get hit with temptations and I just remember all I have to do is nothing, as long as I don’t turn on the computer and start looking at junk, as long as I don’t do anything, or touch myself, I’m fine. It’s a matter of standing firm and standing your ground and, “God, strengthen me right now.” And, “God, fight the battle and shut this down.” And, “God, you know, I’m going to be honest with you, Lord, I’m burning right now and I don’t want to go there, so Lord, help me to stand firm.” Sometimes you win battles just by standing your ground and not looking over the cliff, but backing away from it.
So you also want to be discerning about what’s going on in your life. Are you going through depression, disappointment, grief, loss, are you having a hard time with a lot of stress? All those things can build up the pressure to medicate with the wrong thing, with porn or masturbation, or food. A lot of people these days are using food. We live in a country where half the population are overweight. So I would call that food porn, you know? If you go hit a bag of cookies or Oreos or something, that’s using something else for false comfort or false love. And then, I know I’m talking about masturbation, but it’s a similar thing where you’re getting physical pleasure to deal with a legitimate problem. So you’re using an illegitimate means to deal with a legitimate need.
So what is the legitimate need? “Well, I’m dealing with a lot of stress.” OK. How’s your exercise life? How’s your prayer life? Are you connected with others? What is the thing you’re stressed about? Can you work through that with somebody else? Talk it over with somebody else, but don’t let it sit there and fester and build up and blow up and get a hold of you.
Depression, and disappointment, discouragement… and the Enemy uses lies a lot, such as, “God doesn’t love you as you are. This is as good as it gets for you, so you might as well act out. There’s no hope for you.” So if you let that junk run through your head without standing firm against it, then the battle to medicate with something like masturbation or food porn is going to increase and multiply. You got to learn to watch the thoughts that are running through your mind, and if you’re seeing a lot of the same lies going through your head, that’s an indicator that something needs to be… those are red lights saying, “I got an issue here, that I need healing from. I got lies here that I’ve been buying into, and agreeing with the Enemy on.”
So, “God doesn’t love you as you are.” That’s a stone cold lie from the pit of hell. And if you… what did Jesus die for? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He died for you. He loves you. That’s the truth. So you have to stand against the lies and realize there’s a spiritual battle and the Enemy will use those lies to try and take you down. And, “You’ve gone too far,” is another one of those lies.
Remember that sex is not life. Sex is meant to be an expression of love between husband and wife, and that’s it. But sex is not life. You don’t need sex. You won’t die without it. Some men would… I’d hear them say, “I’m going to… I feel like I’m going to die without sex!” No, you’re not going to die without sex. And I didn’t die without sex either the times I’ve had to be celibate… and I’ll say that my wife has had six pregnancies. And usually during those pregnancies she doesn’t want to be touched. So I’ve had some pretty long stretches of time celibate in marriage, but masturbation is not an option. It will only make you more miserable, more empty, and more lonely than you were before.
So the more you say no to it, the stronger your character will become. You’ll begin to take back ground in your life. You’ll get stronger inside. You’ll become an overcomer. And everyone of you who are believers in Jesus Christ, you are meant and born to be overcomers and fighters.
So, thank you for joining us, my friends. I think this is an issue that needs to come out in the Church, because a lot of people are struggling with it. So thank you for joining me. We’ll talk to you next time.
Blazing Grace is a nonprofit international ministry for the sexually broken and the spouse. Please visit us at blazinggrace.org for information on Mike Genung’s books, groups, counseling or to have Mike speak at your organization. You can e-mail us at email@example.com, or call our office in Chandler, AZ at (719) 888-5144. Again, visit us at blazinggrace.org, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the office at (719) 888-5144.