I’ve been doing it ever since the ninth grade. I didn’t know it was evil back then, but this junior year I find out and know now. The problem is, I’m struggling to stop. I read the Bible, go to confession, go to Church, and beg God to help me stop, placed restrictions on my phone and iPad, but nothing seems to work. I keep repeating the same mistake over and over again. The worst part is that I just told my mom this morning in hopes of that helping me stop once and for all. I thought that if someone else other than my priest knew about this, it would give me the strength. However, I’m regretting that decision now. I feel uncomfortable talking about it and now she’s worried. She says there might be some underlying cause for why I’m doing this and asked if that’s why I don’t like going out. That’s not the reason, though… it’s because I’m horribly awkward and shy. I feel strange around her now, too. I don’t know if she sees me differently now… This is really killing me inside. I don’t know if God’s still with me because I’m in a state of mortal sin and doesn’t that mean I’m totally separated from Him? But then I’m also told that He’s always with us. It’s all just too confusing and too much… I’m just tired. This is ruining my Easter and my life now… I finally understand what it means to be a slave to sin. I’m also a 16 year old girl for some extra information.
Your concern is good, but your anxiety is not helping. The mortal nature of the sin is mitigated somewhat by the force of habit you developed. Please, resolve to break the habit, but don’t despair when you fail! God loves you, and has provuded you with the sacraments. Make frequent use of them.
I masturbated regularly from about thirteen to twenty-eight. I didn’t realize the seriousness of it for all that time, but I know the strength of its pull. I’m not sure everyone understands that if it hasn’t been his or her particular struggle. I never told my parents. Don’t worry about some underlying psycholigical cause or that type of thinking. The release feels good, and we have a strong drive to get to that point… These are not bad things. They, by themselves, are good. The important thing is that we keep these in their proper place (marriage) and recognize that some goods trump others, and that if we put some goods (physical pleasure) above others, we have our priority of goods disordered, and reject some higher goods in favor of lesser ones.
Don’t accept the sin, but please be at greater ease with yourself. Pray, make frequent use of the sacraments, particularly confession, and the Eucharist after confession (maybe go to confession on Saturdays or Sunday mornings). But don’t beat yourself up! Even Saint Paul had a “thorn” he struggled with breaking. He never disclosed what it was, but the saints struggled with these things, too. Just know that God always wants to help you draw closer, and break bad habits, and will always love you. And when you go to Confession, don’t feel guilty if you know you may be weak and relapse. We all struggle. The important thing is to recognize the sin and working hard to break it.
So long as we live in this world, we cannot remain without trial and temptation: as Job says, “Man’s life on earth is a warfare.” We must therefore be on guard against temptations, and watchful in prayer, that the Devil find no means of deceiving us; for he never rests, but prowls around seeking whom he may devour. No one is so perfect and holy that he is never tempted, and we can never be secure from temptation.
Although temptations are so troublesome and grievous, yet they are often profitable to us, for by them we are humbled, cleansed, and instructed. All the Saints endured many trials and temptations, and profited by them; but those who could not resist temptations became reprobate, and fell away. There is no Order so holy, nor place so secluded, where there are no troubles and temptations.
No man can be entirely free from temptation so long as he lives; for the source of temptation lies within our own nature, since we are born with an inclination towards evil. When one temptation or trial draws to a close, another takes its place; and we shall always have something to fight, for man has lost the blessing of original happiness. Many try to escape temptations, only to encounter them more fiercely, for no one can win victory by flight alone; it is only by patience and true humility that we can grow stronger than all our foes.
The man who only avoids the outward occasions of evil, but fails to uproot it in himself, will gain little advantage. Indeed, temptations will return upon him the sooner, and he will find himself in a worse state than before. Little by little and by patient endurance you will overcome them by God’s help, better than by your own violence and importunity. Seek regular advice in temptation, and never deal harshly with those who are tempted, but give them such encouragement as you would value yourself.
The beginning of all evil temptation is an unstable mind and lack of trust in God. Just as a ship without a helm is driven to and fro by the waves, so a careless man, who abandons his proper course, is tempted in countless ways. Fire tempers steel, and temptation the just man. We often do not know what we can bear, but temptation reveals our true nature. We need especially to be on our guard at the very onset of temptation, for then the Enemy may be more easily overcome, if he is not allowed to enter the gates of the mind: he must be repulsed at the threshold, as soon as he knocks. Thus the poet Ovid writes, “Resist at the beginning; the remedy may come too late.” For first there comes into the mind an evil thought: next, a vivid picture: then delight, and urge to evil, and finally consent. In this way the Enemy gradually gains complete mastery, when he is not resisted at first. And the longer a slothful man delays resistance, the weaker he becomes, and the stronger his enemy grows against him.
Some people undergo their heaviest temptations at the beginning of their conversion; some towards the end of their course; others are greatly troubled all their lives; while there are some whose temptations are but light. This is in accordance with the wisdom and justice of God’s ordinance, who weighs the condition and merits of every man, and disposes all things for the salvation of those whom He chooses.
We must not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but earnestly pray God to grant us his help in every need. For, as Saint Paul says, “With the temptation, God will provide a way to overcome it, that we may be able to bear it.” So, let us humble ourselves under the hand of God, in every trial and trouble, for He will save and raise up the humble in Spirit. In all these trials, our progress is tested; in them great merit may be secured, and our virtue become evident. It is no great matter if we are devout and fervent when we have no troubles; but if we show patience in adversity, we can make great progress in virtue. Some are spared severe temptations, but are overcome in the lesser ones of every day, in order that they may be humble, and learn not to trust in themselves, but to recognize their frailty.
-The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 13
- The act itself is a habit. You formed that habit over time, and it was reinforced by the pleasure centers in your brain. So you can’t expect it to be any quicker to break than cigarette smoking or other mildly addictive habits, especially since it does tie into your sex drive as well.
On the other hand, this is something that hundreds of millions of people have been able to stop doing, so it’s something you can do, too. It will take time, it will take effort, and you will have to start over and keep trying whenever you fail. But you can break any bad habit, as long as you just do the boring work.
I guarantee that there are also billions of people who don’t like to go out on dates, or who aren’t very outgoing, and who don’t masturbate. There are also a lot of socially successful, sexually active people who masturbate pretty often. It’s a habit. They probably formed it when they were young and can’t break it, or don’t care enough to do the work. But it’s like people who watch porn, and then wonder why none of their romantic relationships really work out. You’re better off without that kind of weakness and sin sapping the joy from your life, whether or not you go out much.
If you’re confused about what to do, it’s not surprising that your mom is also confused about it. Obviously it would be nice if adulthood and parenthood provided one with all the answers of life, but it’s not that simple. Bear with each other.
You are repeatedly contrite and repenting, even though you keep repeating your sin. Therefore you are not totally separated from God, even before you can make it to Confession. If you are trying to do good and obey God, He is with you.
Don’t get discouraged. Part of the reason why you are having so many difficulties is that you are a teenager with raging hormones. The hormone storm really will let up quite a bit, as you end puberty and begin to be an adult!
The more you fight this, the stronger you will get against your other weaknesses of character, both now and in the future. Even right now, you have probably gotten stronger than you realize. You wouldn’t experience such strong temptations if you were really giving in immediately.
What you need is an interesting project to occupy your mind and fill up your time (preferably something you can do in public, so you don’t slip back into your bad habits). If you do a lot of different things, and if you’re a bit physically tired at bedtime, you will have other things to think about besides sin and worry. Clubs and friendships can help with this, if there are people in them whom you get along with.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you think of something bad or tempting, don’t brood on it and don’t try to “not think about it.” It’s hard not to think about a “green elephant,” as the old party game demonstrates; as soon as it’s mentioned, you can’t think of anything except a green elephant. Getting stressed and upset about a sin of thought actually gives it more power over your thoughts.
Just treat any unwelcome thoughts like a muddy leaf flowing down a ditch after the rain. If it comes into your mind, just let it flow right out again. Of course this also takes practice, but I’m sure you have a lot more interesting things to think about than a muddy leaf!
There is no reason to assume that you are guilty of a mortal sin. The catechism teaches a lot about actions that are objectively disordered or grave matter, but it is by no means obvious that you are guilty of mortal sin.
Catechism 1735 says that “Imputability and responsibility for an action may be diminished or nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”
Over the years, I have asked some very well-known priests to interpret this paragraph and I now have a letter out to my own bishop about this subject.
Notice, that “inadvertence” means you did something unintentionally that is wrong. The rest of the items suggest that you may not be responsible even when you intentionally perform an action – for the reasons it states.
Notice, it doesn’t state an obvious reason, that you weren’t properly TAUGHT that masturbation was a sin, to begin with, unless you lump this under 1735 as a “social” factor – and indeed it is, and also falls under “ignorance” – not that you were “ignoring” something, but that you didn’t know.
The questions I have about 1735 are really about which side of the “knife edge” we fall on, with respect to sin. It might take you a long time to break a habit that you did not intentionally form.
This paragraph of the Catechism is about God’s mercy, not legalistic mumbo jumbo. But, then, too, we must not ignore our properly formed conscience. So, why is masturbation a sin? The general truth in the Bible is that “the earth and all that is in it belongs to God.” Your body belongs to God. You were made in His image and likeness. You have to respect your body and keep it holy. (Holiness is our goal in life.) And, you must keep this in mind.
But, until you fully mature, you may not have the full psychological control to avoid this sin – lack of maturity in plain words. You may not always be able to avoid it. We all sin and we cannot judge you or anybody and how we/they have fallen into various actions and situations. With this sin like all others, remember that God is a witness to what you do.
And, at the final judgment (which doesn’t seem to get talked about in these forums too much) each of our sins will be revealed. If you think “nobody knows what I’m doing” – they will.
You were called to be holy, do the best you can.
p.s. 1735 is part of what is called ‘the deposit of faith’ – you and I and everybody has to believe it, no matter what else you may be told, even right here in these forums.
In the Old Testament, some of the holiest men — sinned. They were forgiven.
Your situation is quite common. I still struggle with it but have prayed a lot and God has helped me. He will never abandon you. Yes, the temptations will remain but keep praying. Gradually, you will be released. Being awkward and shy is normal for your age. Try to be less hard on yourself. Other people have other sins they find difficult to control. Try to be patient as God is patient. Pray to Mary as well.
God bless you,
Take it one day at a time, try your best and if you don’t manage to resist temptation, go to confession. Do no assume that the force of habit stops it being a mortal sin, it may do but unless your confessor tells you that you can rely on this, it is safer to presume it is a mortal sin and confess it every time.
I struggle the same battle.
I could list a LOT I mean a LOT of advice.
But the best of all is this.
REMEMBER ALWAYS GOD LOVES YOU.
GOD WILL DELIVER YOU. Surrender your efforts to fight the habit to Him.
Don’t discount your mother’s thoughts on this too quickly. Masturbation is a turning inward. By its nature it is a selfish use of our sexuality when God intended it to be something we share with our spouse. I don’t mean to sound harsh at all by saying that. But it is something worth considering. You may well be shy and feel awkward (I sure did at your age), but this habit is not helping you to move beyond whatever shyness you have by nature.
Others have given good advice. The only thing I’d add is that it may be helpful in movements of temptation to think about the future. When we yield to sin we are seeking short term pleasure for eternal happiness. Not that every sin cuts us off from God. But every sin does in some way push us away from God. Looking at it when not suffering whatever our temptation it makes no sense that we’d choose an infinitely inferior pleasure. But even experiencing temptation if we try to focus on this reality it may help. God bless you in your struggle.
I also have the same problem, but I’m a 21 year old boy, so I guess you should take what I say with a grain of salt.
My confessor thinks that I’m ultimately wrongly looking for emotional intimacy when I commit lustful acts. You sound like me: shy and withdrawn. I think the substance behind your sin and mine is similar.
My advise is the look for close friends. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but building strong platonic friendships with virtuous people, I think, will make it easy to say no to masturbation.
Another thing I recommend is asking a holy nun you can trust for help. Priest are men, and I can understand if you feel uncomfortable talking openly about this with them. But a nun might have been in a similar situation, or know someone who has, and she’s a woman.
Your mom sounds like she cares about you, and that’s why she’s worried. It’s a good thing, I think, because your sin seems to really be bothering you.
Also, remember that many priests would be happy to grant absolutions this week, so don’t let moral sin ruin your Easter!
I just turned 41 and have struggled with this as well since I was 14. Keep praying, especially to St.Joseph and have frequent confession but explain your habit/sins to the priest.
The sins are more about the lustful thoughts. When you get to the point that you hate the lustful fantasies, it does help. I am by no means cured or out of the woods but it does get better. It’s all about channeling the proper outlet for those urges a la marriage.
Hey, I’m still single so I’m giving this same advice to myself. Keep fighting, reach out to those catholics that you are close to and that you can trust. I had a fellow KOC that I reached out to about this and he encouraged me regarding praying to St. Joseph. May God be with you.
Alright. Here’s a bit of it from my side.
I know you feel maybe you are on a different way with your mother now. But actually probably not like you think. There’s a good chance this will actually make your relationship stronger. Confiding weakness actually speaks of a greater strength of character than you may be giving yourself credit for. And courage. She probably respects you more for this than a lot of other things you’ve done ‘right’. So hold your head up high. This is a thing that hits most people. And only a really small few have the guts to talk about it with those who can best help them.
So I’m pretty impressed. And I think you’re showing incredible maturity and wisdom here. I mean A +
As for the problem itself? You’ve had great advice in this thread already. I’m not going to add to that much. All I can really give you is the thoughts from the mind of an addict. And from that side I can tell you really that the key is to change your routines as much as possible. To avoid all triggers. To put your access points in public spaces. To do things by degrees. To manage your passions by small steps. To not beat yourself up for failures. To know that trying when things are hard is always counted as success. To know that getting back up after failure is the very description of success. To know that the only real failure is to stop fighting.
God will help you as long as you’re trying.
And we’re all here for you. Even when you’ve got moments when hope seems far away.
Peace Aquilina. Keep going. You’re on the right track. It’s just a long walk to catch this train from here.
I am a boy as well, 15.
But I ABSOLUTELY agree with all of that advice. ESPECIALLY getting good virtuous friends. You have no idea how much that will help you.
Google angelic warfare confraternity and if possible enroll. This will help you immensely.
Also maintain a consistent prayer life and keep going to confession no matter how many times you fall. Remember if you give up it means the devil has won
I recommend some related reading:
The Imitation of Christ.
Battles Men Face (nonCatholic Christian author but still good).
The Seven Deadly Sins
Victory Over Vice (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)
Or, start praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Join a church ministry that helps people.
Fast from food for a day or from TV or your iPhone for a week. There is a short book called How to Fast Successfully by Derek Prince (a Pentecostal minister, but it’s still good).
Sometimes frequent confession helps. However, sometimes you may need to spend additional time resolving to repent until you decide to go to confession again so you don’t repeat the cycle. I’ve done both and I’m going with the latter.
I know it’s hard to ignore the images you see everywhere, or how people dress, or things you see other people doing, but your patience will be rewarded someday when you find someone to love. You will also be rewarded by God in heaven.
God’s grace is sufficient for you to prevail if you align His will with yours.
So how do you do that? From my own humble experience and learning, I pray my advice can strengthen those struggling with addiction, especially with masturbation and pornography. Please read all the way to the end:
do not bargain with temptation. One time is not ‘ok’. Millions of others doing the same does not make it ‘ok’.
yes you can be reconciled with God eg through confession, but imagine a natural disaster striking during the ‘act’ - is that how you want to be entering eternity?
live each moment as if it might be your last, in accordance with God’s will. Yes, you might fall. But make sure you stand up after the first fall, don’t linger on the ground. You never go straight from a state of grace to masturbating. There is always a thought process of some kind in between. That is the fall. Stand up quickly, before letting it spiral into deeper sin.
flee from lust, into God’s arms. How? Prayer. Can’t pray or too overcome with lust? Then distract yourself with any ordinary activity - exercise works well. Too late to exercise outdoors? Jog on spot, jumping jacks, anything. Like all things natural and diabolical, the temptation will pass until you can get a grip. Absolutely stay away from all monitors/screens for a few minutes at least.
develop a devotion. Rosary is perfect. Pray it every day, at least five decades. Make purifying yourself one of your intentions to start.
you can succeed. Success is the Kingdom of God. The battle never ends until then, and for now you will need shields like the Rosary.
when you feel you are succeeding, do not become complacent. Even just talking about pornography can plant seeds of temptation. Including during this thread. Be prepared for it.
remember God is always with you. That is reassuring of course, but it should also make us think twice before sin.
God loves you and understands YOU. He would not put you on this earth if you were unable to escape sin. Do not wallow in guilt. Bask instead in God’s light and let Him heal you.
your faith can save you.
May God bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Please do not beat yourself up. Many devout, Catholic men have struggled with this sin, esp in today’s sinful culture.
A priest once suggested to me that every time I feel the urge to commit this sin, to start praying multiple Hail Mary’s until the urge disappears.
If you start praying to Mary when you have the urge, she will help you as long as you ask.
To someone who is enslaved to habit, telling her that she could die in mortal sin could cause her unnecessary pressure and stress, which in turn serves to reinforce the sinful habit.
Don’t panic and run to confession because you are terrified of hellfire, rather go to confession because you want to reconcile with your Father
Like Chesterton says, a young person can be chaste because of fear of contracting disease, or because of love for the Virgin Mary.
With respect, I did not specify mortal sin. It is not for me to judge. But a healthy fear and respect are useful in overcoming unwanted actions, in my humble opinion and experience.
Again, as a man who was for many years enslaved to this specific sin since pre-teen years, and who has repeatedly confessed, and who continues to flee from temptation, I felt compelled to share a way out.
Do not be alarmed, I understand your wisdom and your intentions are pure. These things you recommend can be useful in some situations.
Based on her language, I don’t know if they would be as useful though. But that’s ultimately up to her and her confessors and spiritual guides to discern.