What is masturbation? How does it affect the brain? What does the Bible (not) say about it? What will happen to me if I don't masturbate? In this episode, I'll share insights from neuroscience, the New Testament, and my own story of masturbation.
I've been researching this topic for the past 13 years...so I have a lot to share! You'll learn why myelination matters (even in masturbation without fantasy). You'll hear how masturbation combined with pornography has increased widespread erectile dysfunction (including in my life). You'll find out what happens if you don't masturbate (hint: you'll be okay). You'll also learn the difference between lustful intent and simply noticing an attractive person (what purity culture didn't teach you). Most importantly, you'll ask better questions and develop a more mature perspective on masturbation!
Come back next week for part 2 of this teaching.
Bible verses referenced:
Hey man, thank you so much for listening to this episode on masturbation. I am so passionate about this topic and I really believe that this two-part series is going to help so many of you think about it in a more mature way. In this part, we are going to start out by talking about science, talking about scripture. I'll share a little bit of my story and you will get a really helpful framework for beginning to discern whether certain sexual behavior is appropriate or inappropriate, based on these deeper principles that I have been refining for years. I have put so much passion, energy, time and research into this topic to make it as simple and helpful as possible. Enjoy these episodes. Welcome to Husband Material. Today we are talking about masturbation. What a hot topic, especially for men outgrowing porn. I have been researching this topic and preparing for this teaching for the past 13 years, because you know what It's complex and really well-intentioned and thoughtful. Christians disagree about how to make sense of masturbation. I'm guessing that you have probably spent a good amount of time thinking about this too. I want to honor wherever you are at coming into this conversation. You are welcome here, and I hope that together we will learn and we will begin to expand our mind and our heart towards understanding masturbation better. There is such a variety of perspectives about masturbation within Christianity. On the one hand, you have people like David White, the author of Sexual Sanity for Men, who says there is no room for masturbation in the life of a Christian. Then you have people like Andrew Baumann, who has a chapter in his book The Sexually Healthy Man on healthy masturbation. Either way, whether you find yourself on one of those extremes or somewhere in the middle, this episode is going to challenge you and I expect you will hear some things that you have probably never heard before, some stories that might just blow your mind. We are going to talk about what is masturbation technically, scientifically, what happens in your brain and in your body in the act of masturbation? what does the Bible say about it and what does the Bible not say about it? and can masturbation ever be neutral or maybe even healthy? Why are we talking about this? Because curiosity about masturbation is actually good. It's normal. If you maybe feel a little bit guilty or ambivalent even just about listening to this episode, i want to reassure you that your curiosity is good. God delights in our questions. He is not embarrassed about this. Many of us feel heavy. Many of us feel obsessed with masturbation but also depressed about it, ashamed about it, aroused by it. But God delights in our questions, in our curiosities, and he relates to us with compassion and I believe he has something good for each of us here. There's a lot of different and conflicting information about masturbation out there. Within purity culture, you have a very, very negative view of it. Within popular culture, you tend to have a very, very positive view of it, and what I'm hoping to bring here is a mature view of it. So what is masturbation? Let's use this definition because you will find that when people say masturbation, they're actually talking about very different things. Most of the time, for men who are outgrowing pornography, they're talking about masturbation coupled with fantasy that leads to orgasm, oftentimes also coupled with porn. For our purposes, we're going to define masturbation as the act of touching your own genitals for sexual stimulation. That may or may not involve pornography, sexual fantasy, and it may not lead to orgasm. It may be non-exaculatory masturbation or perhaps what some might call edging, and we will talk about that. Most men masturbate, usually with their hands. Having started from a young age, masturbation is developed. Really helpful about this language because it describes the reality of it, inviting us to greater maturity, while also validating that at one point it made a lot of sense. And we don't condemn children for being like children. Masturbation is usually developed in childhood and, as a result, i think it's okay to call it childish, for the most part, because masturbation requires no relationship with another person. It requires no vulnerability, it requires no character, it requires no delayed gratification. All it really requires is tension and stress and energy that needs to be released. That's really all that's required for masturbation. It is the foundational building block behavior of attachment to porn, and that's why we really need to talk about it here at Husband Material, and I am a little bit sad about how I have not directly addressed it in the way that I'm doing right now, because so many of us didn't get the education we needed. Some of us have been miseducated, almost all of us have been undereducated, whereas I feel like over the last 13 years I have really become an expert about this, and not just from my personal experience. Yes, i have masturbated many, many times, but, man, i have read so much about this theology and psychology and talked with hundreds of men, heard so many stories In my own personal experience of masturbation. I discovered it when I was 14 or 13 or 14 years old, in a swimming pool. I felt some things that I never felt before, and then that night I explored further and it was actually quite alarming to me that my penis did something it had never done before. That was my introduction to it. Actually, i did it more and more and I think my record was masturbating seven times in one day, which carried on until later on. I tried to stop, found that I couldn't, and that was really the beginning of my healing journey. Actually, here's what happened when I got married, after over a year of freedom from porn and without masturbating, but still having this history of thousands of orgasms by myself, i thought I would have premature ejaculation. I thought that I would be too excited too quickly. But on my wedding night, when I saw my wife, even though I was really excited, i actually did not respond the way I had expected or hoped. And over the next few days on our honeymoon, i was increasingly concerned and frantic and flabbergasted that I was not able to sexually respond to her, even though I was so attracted to her while dating, even though I really did see her as beautiful and gorgeous and amazing. I was experiencing erectile dysfunction And, even though I actually had not used traditional porn, because of my pornographic style of relating and because of all my masturbation with fantasy, i had no idea how to relate to another human being sexually Pretty culture had also conditioned me to view the naked female body as bad, nasty, evil and gross. And so for me, even though I didn't experience SSA, even though I didn't actually primarily use porn to masturbate, i was still so accustomed to solo sexual activity And it actually took me seven months seven months to be able to have sex with her. I had to have full sexual intercourse with my wife. That's a little bit of my story about how my sexuality was formed and deformed by this secret solo, isolated, immediate, fast, any time activity, just all by myself, bonding with my own body, with my own hand, with my own thoughts, rather than with another person. For my own sexual brokenness, i have also spent multiple years without masturbating to orgasm, even without intentionally ejaculating, and especially in this season of my life when my wife has either been pregnant or giving birth or nursing children. For 90% of our marriage we have not had a lot of sex, so the number of orgasms that I've had by myself would probably be about 2,000, whereas the number of orgasms I've had as a married man with my wife amount to less than 200 times. So just let that sink in for a moment. In terms of conditioning, in terms of formation, in terms of sexual development and what's happening in my brain, i have had 10 times the number of orgasms while masturbating as I have had with my wife. 10 times the amount. So how do you think that affects me? Let's talk about it. Let's talk about scientifically what happens in the act of masturbating to orgasm. When you orgasm, lots of chemicals are released in your brain dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, norepinephrine And if you want to learn more about those specific chemicals and what happens in orgasm, then please go back and listen to our episode, your Brain Off Porn, with Greg Oliver, and he goes into all of those in detail. What I want to focus on is a process called myelination, myelination. Myelin is kind of like the WD-40 for neural pathways in your brain. There's a famous saying in neuroscience neurons that fire together wire together. So when you masturbate and you activate those neural pathways and all these chemicals releasing those neural pathways get stronger, they myelinate. Myelination means it becomes more automatic, it becomes quicker, it becomes more efficient. Your brain structurally changes to accommodate this behavior. In other words, what you feed your brain will grow and what you starve in your brain will wither and maybe even die. Here's what that means for masturbation The more you do it, the more you want to do it, the easier it becomes to do it. Neuroplasticity On the flip side the less you do it oftentimes, the less you want to do it and the more difficult it becomes to do it. When you're up against decades of conditioning, thousands of activations like what I was describing for myself, then unlearning. That takes time and patience and energy and it's difficult, if you have learned to masturbate in one way, to try to do it another way is going up against all that conditioning. Some guys have wondered is it even possible to masturbate without fantasy, without lust, without objectification? A lot of the times, the reason you're asking that is because the myelination in your brain has set you up with a rigid structure. It's going to be very difficult to deconstruct. Let me simplify it for you. Picture your brain like a forest. The first time you masturbate is like a road being suddenly constructed in that forest. It's the first road that's been ever built in that forest and the more you do it, that road gets bigger and it can become like a six-lane highway. On the other hand, if you want to build a new road in that forest, you can do it, especially as an adult. It's not gonna be as immediate, automatic or seismic. It's gonna be more like trailblazing, trying to clear a path through dense jungle, through thick bushes and branches. You're gonna have boulders in the way. It's gonna take you a long time to even get a little bit farther down that road of maybe masturbating a different way or eliminating masturbation from your life. So I say that to just validate for all of you who have attempted or are currently attempting to stop masturbating. Please validate how much conditioning you are up against. Don't beat yourself up. Be patient and kind to yourself. The good news of neuroplasticity is that the six-lane highway, when it's not used, can deteriorate. It will get potholes in it. There will be trees and rocks and boulders that get in the way over time. If you stop driving traffic to it, it will eventually become overgrown. And that little path let's call it the path of healing and freedom and wholeness that little trail in your brain of non-lustful masturbation or not masturbating at all, can eventually grow to become a road that gives you life. So masturbation, with or without pornography, myelinates your brain. It activates neural pathways that grow And it also means that it can be really hard to unlearn. Let's talk about what happens when you couple masturbation with porn. Porn is a supernormal stimulus. People have masturbated for centuries, for thousands of years, but only in the last 30 years have they done so with internet porn, which is a supernormal stimulus. There's a great cartoon by Stuart McMillan about supernormal stimuli that I'm going to put in the show notes for this. You probably want to look that up if you really want to understand supernormal stimuli. Let me summarize it for you. A Nobel Prize-winning scientist named Nicholas Tinbergen did experiments on animals. So, for example, he constructed cardboard dummy butterflies Not a real butterfly, a fake butterfly, but one that had more defined markings that male butterflies would try to mate with in preference to real females. He did other experiments with seagulls and the little red marking on the tip of their beaks. Exaggerating that marking on a fake seagull, the baby seagulls went for the fake one. In the same way, human beings, as organisms, are biologically wired to be activated by an artificial, supernormal, fake version of another human. In a very quick span of time, tinbergen was able to influence the behavior of these animals with a new super stimulus that they found themselves attracted to, in which they preferred over the real thing. Instinct took over, and now the animals' behaviors were a detriment to their livelihood, because they simply couldn't say no to the fake stimulus. And that's exactly what has happened with us coupling masturbation with pornography. For many men, masturbation coupled with porn results in erectile dysfunction. According to research by Dr John Fober, in 1992, the percentage of men under 30 with erectile dysfunction was 7%. In 2012, it was 30%. So in just 20 years the rate of erectile dysfunction rose 23%. In other words, it skyrocketed. Why? What happened during those years? Internet porn came on the scene. Masturbation has always been available to us, but now that we've coupled it with internet porn, it's really doing a lot more damage to our brains. It's bonding us with these artificial images, with these fake versions of the real thing that feel irresistible because they're designed to trigger these deep-seated responses in us. So, because most masturbation is coupled with fantasy, and the most powerful available version of fantasy is porn, that puts a lot of us in a really tough place, and that's why erectile dysfunction has gone through the roof. Porn and masturbation together also really activate our mirror neurons, in other words, the region in the brain that observes something and then activates those same circuits in your own brain. Whatever we're fantasizing about when we masturbate actually activates mirror neurons so that it's as if we are performing the action. What we behold, we become, what we observe and imitate it actually changes our brain. So when we're talking about masturbation with porn, the effects on our brain and our body are quite destructive and damaging. But even if you masturbate without porn or fantasy, it still creates gaps, and in a previous episode about masturbation, which got removed, featuring Scott Cohn, scott Cohn talked about the five gaps of masturbation, a concept that he created to describe how masturbation really sets you up for some sexual frustration. If you actually get into a marriage relationship where you're wanting to have really satisfying, connected sex with a partner, masturbation, even without porn, even without fantasy, still conditions you to sexually relate to another person in an immature, childish way. Here are some of the gaps that I have noticed Masturbation is isolated. Real, healthy sex is intimate. Masturbation is immediate. Real, healthy sex is prolonged and delayed. You actually need self-control to be a great lover. Masturbation is fast, especially if your brain is myelinated to masturbate Man. It can happen real, real fast. Real healthy sex is slow. There's foreplay. It's not rushed. Masturbation is always there. You can have it anytime when you're in a marriage and your priority is on a real, healthy sexual relationship with another person. You do not have sex all the time. You have it sometimes and there are seasons when you don't have it at all, like what I'm going through right now. Masturbation puts you in a posture of taking for yourself rather than in a real, healthy sexual relationship. It's about giving and receiving. It's actually not just about self-giving, although I think that's the most important thing. It's also about receiving from another person. Masturbation can inhibit your ability to fully sexually respond to another person And that's what happened to me. Tony is sharing, with a trigger warning that somehow masturbation seemed to desensitize my penis. It made it hard to orgasm without a lot of hard pressure and fast stimulation. That is another big difference between masturbation and solo sex and a real, healthy sexual relationship. Oftentimes we have kind of a death grip on our penises while masturbating. It's much rougher and more vigorous than the experience of actually having your penis in a vagina. I mean holding your penis with your hand in a way is kind of creating a surrogate vagina, like creating this warm, enclosed little tube. Tony says I found that when I was masturbating that sex with my wife wasn't really satisfying because I couldn't get a stimulated and the feelings weren't as intense during intercourse because I didn't feel that my penis was being squeezed hard enough as I needed it to be to climax. But since stopping masturbation I have noticed that having intercourse is now as stimulating as I needed to be to climax. I feel that the pressure my penis needs to orgasm now is less. That's a great example of over time, patiently, gently allowing your brain to reset into a more normal, healthy sexual pattern. Here's another difference between masturbation and real, healthy sex. A lot of times when we develop masturbation as a habit, we use it to emotionally regulate. We use it to deal with stress. We use it to deal with pain. We use it to avoid the parts of life that we wish were not there. We use it to try to feel better. In real, healthy sex, the activity is not supposed to emotionally regulate you. It's supposed to be the result of connection. That's already there. The point is there can still be issues with masturbation and the way that it affects you, the way it affects your brain, the way that it shapes you, even if it's not coupled with porn or fantasy. Some of you guys might be thinking what if I don't masturbate? What will happen to me? There are lots of legends and myths out there, like blue balls or even just a feeling of will I explode? Will I even be able to survive without this coping mechanism, without this pacifier? The truth is, if you do give up masturbation, you will go through withdrawal, which is normal when you're giving up any behavior that you have become dependent upon. There's a really great e-book by my friend, sean Bonito, a survival guide to the first 90 days free from pornography. That, i really believe, applies to your first 90 days of being free from masturbation too. In the early stages, in those first few days, in those first couple weeks without masturbation, you will experience an emotional roller coaster irritability, tension, stress, increased temptation, maybe even insomnia, and as you go on, you may also experience low energy, brain fog, low sex drive, loneliness or even depression. But this is temporary. Over time your brain will readjust. That six-lane highway will grow out of use. You will build new roads, especially after 90 days, you can experience contentment, a renewed sex drive. You might even be radiating joy. You'll have high energy, greater focus, self-respect and deepening intimacy. That is some of the reward that you can look forward to. On the other side of building new roads in your brain, building new neural pathways As you spend more time without masturbation, there's some more good news for you Your semen can release naturally. God has designed our brains and our bodies to be able to have a natural release of semen, which can happen through dreams. It can happen through urine. If you have spent some time without ejaculating, sometimes you might notice some interesting things in your urine, like some kind of white stuff in the toilet bowl. That's semen. It's releasing naturally. And there is one type of semen release that not many people know about. I probably need to do a whole episode on this, called Chorgasms or Abgasms, that I discovered accidentally when it had been about two months since I had last masturbated. I was in college, i was working out of the gym and while doing these abdominal exercises I found myself becoming aroused. I wasn't thinking about anything sexual, there was no fantasy. I was literally just doing my reps One, two, three And finding myself doing them more vigorously like, oh my gosh, i have some energy here. I ejaculated right in my gym shorts. I was like what is going on? Most men never experience that because they never go more than one or two months without masturbating. But if you do, guys, your brain and body are well endowed. That just sounds weird. Your brain and body are equipped. They will not explode. They will find a natural way to release. Oftentimes that happens through your sleep, but it can also seep out in your urine or happen during abdominal exercises, which is a non-lustful, non-manual form of ejaculation that is almost always devoid of fantasy because you're so focused on the exercise at hand. If you never masturbate to orgasm again, my friend, you will be okay. You will not die. If you never eat again or drink again, yes, you will die, but if you do not orgasm again, you'll be fine. There is some medical research that has suggested that regular masturbation may promote prostate health. However, no research study has shown any negative side effects to not ejaculating. I consulted a urologist about that very topic this week and he shared with me some of the research about prostate health, but he also said that there really is no evidence that non-ejaculating can be harmful. In fact, there's a great deal of information out there on the internet about how non-ejaculating can have mental, physical and spiritual benefits. This is called semen retention. It's based on a lot of ancient wisdom and Eastern philosophy and I really need to learn more about it to be able to speak to it. But for now I just want you to know there are some different perspectives on the various health side effects of ejaculating or non-ejaculating for a long period of time. That's a little bit of the brain science about masturbation. Before I move on to talking about the Bible, i want to look at some of your comments here. Mya says the docu-series by Fight the New Drug, brain Heart World is a great reference and resource for explaining some of these principles. It's designed for use in public high schools and colleges. Yes, totally agree. You can find it at brainheartworldorg and it is all based on science and personal testimony. Andy says this scientific info is gold and your personal vulnerability is healing to listen to. Thank you, drew. You're welcome, andy. Okay, let's move into talking about the Bible, because there is a lot of disagreement about this And I think when we really examine what the Bible says and doesn't say, it can remove a lot of shame and guilt and confusion. So let's go into it. What does the Bible say about masturbation? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The word is never used. Some people think that Leviticus and Deuteronomy talk about masturbation when they mention seminal emissions, but there is nothing about stimulating yourself towards those emissions. It could have been a sexual dream, so that's not really talking about masturbation. Some people talk about the sin of Onan as an example of masturbation. Onan was a man who spilled his seed on the ground. Interestingly, though, what he did was actually more of a withdrawal to prevent pregnancy. He was refusing to meet his obligation to his brother's widow. He was not really doing it to please himself. That's an insight I got from someone in the husband material community recently. So Onan was not masturbating. That was a completely different context. However, even though the Bible doesn't say anything about masturbation, it does say a lot about sex and sexuality that we can apply to this topic In the very words of Jesus in Matthew 5, 27, and 28,. Jesus says you have heard that it was said you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. I want to pause there. This is very, very important. According to Jesus, at what point does seeing become sin? At what point does somebody cross into the realm of sexual sin? Is it at the point of orgasm? Is it at the point of masturbation? No, it is at the point of lustful intent. That also means that it is not at the point of simply noticing someone sexually or having a sexual thought about someone. Jesus is not saying that if you have a sexual thought about someone, you've committed adultery with them. No, no, he's talking about lustful intent. Lust is that posture of taking rather than receiving that I was talking about earlier. Lustful intent means I am actually mentally taking advantage of the person in my mind, i'm dwelling on it, i'm fantasizing about them, i'm feeding this thought. That is lustful intent And this is really liberating for so many of us. Simply noticing someone who's attractive is not lust, it's not sin. It's when we begin to take that second look and that third look and then we replay it in our mind later at home. Now we're actually crossing into a thought pattern and leading into a sexually addictive cycle. Yes, it is not a sin to be triggered. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. He says if I feed the trigger and nurse it, it becomes lust. Exactly That's what we talked about as lustful intention. So, according to Jesus, at what point does seeing become sin? It's actually long before masturbation. It's before that ritual behavior. Sin starts in the heart, in the mind. It doesn't start when you notice someone. It also doesn't start when you masturbate to someone. It starts at the moment when you decide to use that person sexually, even in the privacy of your own mind. That means that many of our conversations about well, is masturbation a sin or is it not a sin actually kind of miss the point, because when we're talking about is it a sin or not, we should be thinking about what's going on in my heart, what's going on in my mind, what are my intentions? Are my intentions lustful or are my intentions loving? Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is, like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Is that love motivating your sexual activity? Because if it's not, then it's falling short of God's heart and his purposes, which can be summarized as love rather than lust. David Carpenter, one of my dearest friends and advisors, says this purity culture and books, like every man's battle, have convinced men that if they have any type of sexual thought, it is lust and sin. I simply do not agree with this. God made us sexual beings. He made us visually aroused. We cannot not have sexual thoughts. It's the way God designed us. He wanted us to have the desire to procreate and to have sex for pleasure. Great song of Solomon. He says, matthew 5.27 is not about a glance or a look. It is about pursuing someone who is not yours to pursue. It is about intentionally fantasizing. Having a random or even a specific sexual thought when you look at someone is not lust. That makes you human and just the way God designed you. If you go crazy with the thought, that is lust. All this preaching about bouncing your eyes is just intensifying guilt and shame for being human. Now, i'm not giving anyone permission to stare and ogle at someone who's attractive to you. If you notice them and have a sexual thought, fine, now simply move on. What we do with our sexual thoughts is what matters, guys. The Lord looks at the heart. He looks at our intentions, our motivations, our thoughts and our desires, and for me. Even with all of the freedom and healing I've experienced over multiple years, i have to admit that I still sexually sin. There are moments when I do give in to fantasy, when I do find myself crossing into lustful intent. Now, that is sin. And when God looks at our hearts, he does so with compassion, he does so with connection. He knows us better than anyone and He loves us better than anyone. Another biblical passage that I think is helpful here is 1 Thessalonians 4, saying that it is God's will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans who do not know God, and that in this matter, no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. So let's think about how that applies to masturbation. We are called into growth, into sanctification, to avoid sexual immorality, to learn to control our bodies. So, whatever you think about masturbation, we are all called to learn to control our bodies in a way that's holy and honorable. And notice how, in this text, it locates the issue as lust, just like Jesus did, not in a specific behavior, but in a posture of the heart. He also says no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister, and I think that's the role of fantasy. Many times it's taking advantage of somebody else. It's using someone else's beauty for our own selfish purposes And insofar as masturbation is taking advantage of someone and lustful, then it is unhealthy and immoral. First Corinthians, 6, 18 through 20 also has some great insights that I think apply to masturbation too. It says flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body. I love the version of these verses in the message, which says we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever, the kind of sex that can never become one. There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin, we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for becoming one with one another? Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for The physical part of you? is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you? God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. Isn't that awesome? That was 1 Corinthians 6, 18 through 20 in the message. Let people see God in and through your body. When we're considering specific versions of masturbation and whether they line up with God's heart, that's a question we can ask. Is this representing God accurately? Is this a fitting way to steward my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? I see a question from Scott saying how selfish can I be before God doesn't like it? That's exactly the kind of understandably immature response of a little child. Right, how selfish can I be before daddy doesn't like it? Guys, there's so much more than that. There is so much more than that in the heart of God. Like a good father, he is concerned with our character. Am I treating my body in a way that's worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of masturbation that happens doesn't line up with these biblical teachings about not just avoiding sin but letting people see God in our bodies. I mean embodying the love of Jesus, embodying the love of God. I want to pause and quote CS Lewis. I realize this quote is really long, it's a little bit academic, but there's a lot of wisdom in it, and it comes from a letter that CS Lewis wrote to a friend And I'm sharing it, not because I believe it's the perfect approach to understanding masturbation, but because he makes some really important points that all of us need to wrestle with. Cs Lewis, in a letter toa friend says for me, the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete and correct his own personality and that of another, and finally in children and even grandchildren, and turns it back. Masturbation sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides or husbands, and this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman, for the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman or man can rival. Among those shadowy brides or husbands, he is always adored, always the perfect lover. No demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided, as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. I love how CS Lewis is focusing on formation, on how does this behavior form you and shape you? is it turning you into what we might call husband material, or is it inhibiting you? That's what sexuality is about. So if you're only asking the question, is this behavior sinful or not? Oftentimes that's revealing a heart that's not in line with the gospel, not in line with the Bible, because it's ultimately a way of saying how much can I get away with? You're actually missing the point. I mean, here is a better question Who am I becoming? You can use this to evaluate any sexual behavior that seems confusing or questionable. Who am I becoming? Am I becoming more like Jesus? Is it leading to intimacy or isolation? Is it forming me into a more mature man of God or is it keeping me in a childish, immature behavior? How does this align with God's heart and his purposes? Now we're asking the right questions. God wants us to ask those questions. That's a big reason why I think God is brilliant in not addressing masturbation directly in the Bible. In our community, somebody asked why doesn't the Bible say anything about masturbation? If this topic is so confusing and difficult, why didn't God just address it directly? And my answer is because God is brilliant. He is so wise. He wants to get below the behavior, into our hearts, into our intentions, into our character, formation and development. His heart is full of love, not legalism. Listen, god understands the complexity of what he has created in our sexuality. He gives us these beautiful principles of honoring him, of loving each other, of getting free from lust, of being able to control our bodies and being redeemed by the blood of Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit, being the beloved sons and daughters of God, having him indwell our bodies. Wow, does my version of masturbation fit with that? Okay, now we're beginning to ask the right questions that you're not sure about and that's not mentioned in the Bible specifically. You can ask am I becoming more lustful or more loving? Am I becoming more self-absorbed or self-giving? Am I becoming more isolated or more intimate? Is this immediate gratification or delayed gratification? And, ultimately, is this keeping me stuck in immaturity or is this challenging me to become more mature and more like Jesus? Those are the two big questions I want to emphasize for everyone How does whatever you're doing align with God's heart? and when you engage in this behavior, who are you becoming? And the truth is, when we look at specific case studies, that is not always clear And two different people could be doing the exact same behavior, but with very different intentions and shaping them in very different ways. Let's go deeper into it with these case studies. I see Matthew asking how could masturbation possibly grow my intimacy with my wife or God? We're gonna get to that In part two of this series coming out next week. We will dive deep into specific case studies and I will be answering your spastic questions about masturbation. Thanks so much for listening. If you find this helpful, please share it with your friends and always remember you are God's beloved Son and you He is well pleased.