THE BLOG

Is Masturbation a Sin?

02/20/2015 05:20 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015

Look. No one wants to hear what they can or cannot do with their body.

We came by free will in the hardest way and we feel like we've earned it. "This is my life!"

But, the whole free will thing isn't without its catches, hang-ups, and consequences. We're totally free to choose but some choices are obviously worse than others. We all have that friend that just makes the worst decisions, the one who should definitely just hand over all choices to the nearest halfway decent and well mannered adult in the vicinity, but, they too, get the privilege to choose. That is unless someone around them has decided to "play God" and be a total controlling asshole, be it a dictatorship kind of mass ruling through fear or a relative that disallows your company at their table because of some area of your life that they've played judge and jury on. But that's a much different vein than the one we're going down. We have some swelling veins to discuss. Yes, the ones in your penises and vaginas. The ones in your forehead most likely too.

I think this is important, we should be defining what masturbation is and isn't if we're going to be telling people not to do it. I don't see any biblical standing for the famous mormon underwear or the straight-up terror many put around coming into contact with their own anatomy. If anything, I find the level of nudity in the bible comforting. A naked woman is caught in the middle of adultery and is thrown at Jesus' feet, and Jesus (this is classic Jesus) doesn't even gasp, this guy lets everyone know with all the calm and collect of a true son of God that they have no room to judge -- and he'll just wait right here until they tuck their tails and scamper off. And, in the meantime? He'll just be sitting here, writing in the dust. This is the Jesus version of "Go ahead, make my day." And when they do all drop rock and slink off, he just turns to the woman and tells her to go home and not to do it again. No biggie.

If we're talking about our bodies, it should be mentioned that God created us and was happy with this creation, so He agrees that we're ok to look at. Adam and Eve were meant to be naked before they mussed it all up.

So, then, what's wrong with rubbing one off? If God likes us naked and made us just absolutely perfect, why shouldn't we just massage whatever body part we like in whatever way we like?

If we were still in the garden, we probably could.

Seriously.

Under the fig tree, free as a bird, loving ourselves and all that has been created... But.

We aren't in the garden.

We're here.

And, I mean, even if we ditch the garden comparison (and I'm going to because it's already growing cumbersome) we aren't really looking at the isolated action and living in the moment of pleasure, we're talking masturbation with its common usage and its emotional baggage, and its civilian casualties. Maybe we don't need to take responsibility for the entire porn industry or the exploitation of children on the Internet, and we won't. For the sake of ease and of not being here all night, let's just take your average example, your normal guy or gal hangin' around the loft or countryside b&b on a Friday afternoon with nowhere else to be and some alone time for the next hour or so... What's so sinful about a little personal private afternoon delight?

Well, maybe nothing. Maybe you're laying in bed, neglecting nothing in particular. You aren't missing your child's school play or doing it instead of putting the laundry in the dryer that you promised you would have done (sidebar: loving other people is paramount at all times, per Jesus, so doing anything that would cause you to willfully damage someone can't be without sin).

I just realized we need to talk about what we mean by "sin". Look, sin is an archery term that means "missed the mark." This translation to this specific word, out of all the other words for mistake and horrible terrible deed, was chosen by the earliest Roman and Greek translators and pretty consistently used. They made a direct translation with confidence and consensus from whatever the original word was to this word "sin" which means "missing the mark." Now we would say "not hitting the target." This is really important to know. The connotation of the word has gone through some eras and gene pools and power trippers that made it seem so heavy. But, it's not. You just missed the target. Recognize that you didn't hit the right spot, look at where you should go and focus on it, draw back your bow and try again.

Confession, repentance, reconciliation, done, forgiven.
So, let's keep this in perspective.
Masturbation is one way to miss the target.

So, maybe there is no area where you are causing harm by being absent or not fulfilling a commitment, hurting no one. You are footloose and fancy free. Alright, time to get down. But, wait, why are you masturbating?

Motives are important.
They can be the difference between serving five to 10 or life without parole.

So, why are you masturbating?

Sometimes you are missing the target by acting out symptoms and actions, not being mindful of where they come from and what they are. Sometimes, there is something you are hiding, ignoring, harboring, not confessing and repenting and reconciling. Maybe you are masturbating because you can't bear to have sex with your spouse anymore and this is a release that helps you cope with that. That masturbation is a band aid on the bleeding wound of resentment and unspoken anger. Maybe it's just a way to actually feel good without the unfulfilling and lackluster "love" you've been hardly making. Maybe you aren't healing your relationships and taking accountability. Maybe it's a red flag in troubled waters that will only get worse if it isn't named and addressed, but, maybe you're just on a business trip and you're lonely. This one could possibly scrape by but these are all the situations behind the masturbation. The act is hardly addressed, I guess that's being ignored in the examples we so often hear. So, we'll let the business traveller be for now, he is safe so far.

There can be so many variables.
Masturbation doesn't explicitly mean that you are in the room alone.
And then there is porn.

As much as we justify and get all "everyone is secretly a freak" about it, porn is definitely no victimless crime. Speaking of the industry as a whole, which I realize isn't even fair. It's a weird road for anyone to examine. I just thank Jesus that he gave me the example of the woman at the well. He doesn't judge her and instead kicks it for awhile, shares some water, forgives her, and gives her good news. I can totally do that.

I can also see there is a lot of pain and hurt and sadness in the pornography industry. That doesn't make masturbation a sin though, it makes being cold and cruel to people a sin.

You can get around using porn though, but still be careful. Fantasizing isn't without its own pitfalls. Fantasizing about someone in particular is a sin minefield. You know this if you have ever met a friend's significant other and had that split second of "Hey, they're kind of cute." You can see immediately how so many people ended up on Jerry Springer. Recognize the danger in it as a sure miss, give it up, move on and you'll be fine. Fantasizing about someone is said to be a sin without even committing the acts therein, the bible says so and even if it didn't we would have to agree. Best to just leave that hot neighbor washing her car out of your mind and never picture that guy from 14D.

Maybe you just want to do it because you enjoy it. There's no one around and nowhere to be. Just to make sure it's all good, you're purely focused on the sensation and the appreciation of the functioning and feeling of your perfectly designed earthly body. I don't know. I can't see a big problem with that. Or maybe, you're masturbating with your spouse. There are a lot of possibilities here. It may even just be kinda fun. Maybe you like appreciating each other and experiencing one another this way. An extreme level of intimacy. What's wrong with that?
Hey, from where I'm sitting, abso-freakin-lutely nothing. Go for it.

But obviously this isn't what most people are guilting and shaming, hemming and hawing about. They're mostly talking men, of pretty much all ages. They're in a titter over whether their young son is destined to be a pimp and a showgirl chaser because they found a Hooters brochure in his backpack. Or, on the more serious end, their brother/cousin/dad/boyfriend/husband is addicted to porn and is ruining his life. Again, the act isn't the issue but eventually they mention "the bible says masturbation is a sin." And I ask where, and they go "uh..." because it doesn't.

It says a lot of things that lead to the act, come from it, or go skipping arm in arm with masturbation are sins. Lusting after some other guy's wife is a sin, you're missing the target, you aren't doing the right thing. There is some part about spilling seed they say is a sin. I totally agree, masturbating unto some crops is not the target, try not to do that. Admit it, change it, try again.

The thing is what they're saying is a sin isn't the act of feeling around your unmentionables till you feel oh, so good. When people tell you masturbation is a sin they are telling you that they are scared of why someone is touching themselves and they are worried about what it will mean for the future. They are taking issue with a host of sin that uses an act for harmful means. Masturbation in our common usage is a symptom of some other pain or neglect, some underlying hurt that causes hurt in others. There's a saying "Hurt people hurt people." Meaning, if someone is hurting you it's because they are hurting inside. If someone is masturbating to the point of causing pain in themselves and others, generally messing things up for everyone involved, they're doing it wrong. Something in or around them is going wrong. Masturbation is not a sin, in and of itself. There are certainly times when it serves as the vessel for one depending on the the person behind it.

It's important to remember that if there is ambiguity about whether something is a sin, it probably isn't. God seems to have been clear with people. Love each other, no abusing each other, take care of yourself and those around you.

Basically, is masturbation a sin? It's definitely dancing with many of them, but who isn't...