So, I enjoy fasting — like actually really enjoy it. Maybe that’s a bit masochistic. I could point to other aspects of my being that tend toward masochism (or perhaps it’s just the uber-melancholic in me?). But I’ll spare y’all.

Some may really struggle with fasting. But I’ve come to adore this practice. Integral to my faith and growth throughout adulthood.

I remember my first-ever fast in college, spurred by my conviction from an awful pornography binge. I connected with God so deeply in those ensuing two days, fasting from all food.

In the years since, post-pornography binge or not, I’ve also fasted from coffee and social media. When I feel the tummy rumbles or the racing thoughts — I return to my first Love. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable. It’s intimate.

Time to be real now: in some recent months of hardship, I’ve grown quite dependent on masturbation. More than I’ve been in a long time. I’ve had little to no self-control or say in the matter; if I’ve felt like masturbating, I’ve masturbated. Daily, nightly.

I don’t want to dive too deep (or at all) into the theology of masturbation. I’ve already written and podcasted and podcasted some more about the issue in abundance, and you’re welcome to believe what you do about masturbation, whether Scripture even addresses it or not.

I tend to believe about masturbation what many might believe about, say, alcohol: moderation, moderation, moderation.

As believers, we can all agree that it’s never a good thing when something that isn’t Jesus controls your life. And masturbation has the ability to do just that.

Masturbation takes me out of the present. It launches me into a fantasy world where male connection and masculine fulfillment require no effort, no vulnerability. No strain.

In masturbation, I create a false world and a false life full of false relationships that make it all the more difficult to engage in real relationships with this real world, real life.

Real relationships with other men. And a real relationship with God himself.

And so, as we entered Lent a few days ago, I wondered whether to fast from something in this season. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical household, and it’s been dare I say fun to step out in new ways with my faith practices as an adult.

Because, yeah. I love fasting.

I’ve actually not fasted for Lent in several years. Until this Lent, that is.

Well. Sorta?

This Lent, I’m giving up masturbation. And I realize that might sound really wrong or off or like I clearly didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition and have no idea how this Lent thing even works.

But regardless. I’m doing it. I’m not masturbating for the next few weeks.

It may not quite be a “fast” by technical, theological terms. But it’s a necessary refocusing. For this Lenten season and maybe, hopefully, beyond.

I hate being reliant on things more than Jesus. Seeking and valuing and idolizing things more than him. Dependence on anything other than Jesus … is the worst.

I hate seeking writing notoriety more than Jesus.

I hate valuing Your Other Brothers more than Jesus.

I hate idolizing intimate male friendships more than Jesus.

And I hate this dependence on masturbation more than Jesus.

I don’t like feeling dependent on masturbation to sleep each night. Dependent on masturbation to escape my relational hardships. Dependent on masturbation to catch my breath, ease my heart, provide release, lose myself, take me to another world, an easier world, a world that isn’t real.

I do think masturbation can be a useful tool for some to escape temptation and manage stress. But I don’t want to lose myself in masturbation, over and over. A slave to an act that needs to be done and redone, again and again, without ceasing.

I want to lose myself in Jesus without ceasing. I want to experience his view of myself as a man and as a man among other men.

I don’t want to see myself through some distorted lens of masculinity and masculine “connection” while masturbating more than I should, if at all.

Hard and awkward and exhausting though it is, I want to connect more intentionally with fellow men, fellow Jesus-followers. Engaging with the real world. Real problems, real hurts, real miscommunications, and real joys.

I want to step out beyond myself and not retreat inward with masturbation.

I want to lay down masturbation this Lent, because I don’t want to stay in this all too familiar posture. This literal physical posture.

I want to shift my focus outward. I want to regain this self-control: a fruit of the Spirit that’s grown rotten over the last year.

I want to grow, and I want to let go. Let go of anything that derails me from Jesus.

And when I feel the proverbial tummy-rumbles … I will remember where my help comes from. I will feel it my body, and I will store it in my soul.

Are you partaking in a fast this Lenten season? How do you reckon with masturbation?

  • Bold post, brother. I know the feeling though.
    Many years ago, I was deep into a several month-long porn binge. My addiction had come back with vengeance. My counselor suggested looking at abstaining from it in the short term to help- we were approaching lent, so he proposed fasting from porn for Lent.
    Definitely not liturgically correct. But it did help. Giving myself the short term goal helped me battle the addiction because it forced me to refocus on the purpose of abstaining anyway.
    I’m proud of your desire to rely on Christ alone. I pray this time leads you to greater dependence upon Him, brother.

    • Thanks, Dean. We all need to take steps back, steps away. A chance to remember and refine our reliance on Christ. This is why I fast, and I probably don’t do it often enough. Thanks for sharing your own unconventional fast in walking through this addiction. Proud to call you my brother.

      • Thinking of this as an unconventional fast makes me think of what my pastor said. Fasting from brussles sprouts is not really fasting if you don’t eat brussles sprouts normally. For me, no peeps at Easter time, that would be a fast from a “food” perspective. When I think about the rest of what he said and what a lot of people I know of think of as a conventional fast, it does seem a lot of time to be food or something in that line. When my pastor was talking about fasting, he mentioned that the time we normally spent on whatever we were fasting should be time focused on Jesus. My guess is if we were to compare the extra focus on Jesus by taking it away from masturbation rather than taking it away from time spent eating peeps, I think (at least my relationship with Jesus) would gain a lot more. Looking at it that way, I would consider it more real than unconventional. But how many men (straight or not) out there would be willing to be honest enough to tell others that it what their fast is. Bold post indeed. Thank you for being such an example.

  • Sure, I’ll jump on the band wagon with you! While I don’t particularly believe that masturbation is the most terrible or evil thing in the world, I do agree that it can be an easy, lazy distraction and gives my natural/carnal man too much power and control over me. As true disciples of Christ, or those who wish to be, I think we should all (male and female) consistently work on those things and short comings that bog us down, or drive the Spirit away. We should always be making a concerted effort to keep our natural man desires curbed and controlled.
    That being said, masturbation is a tough beast for me to tame. I have and will struggle w/ it for my entire life. Since the age of 7 it has been my quick go-to that I’ve relied on to comfort, soothe, relax, fantasize, escape, etc. etc. etc. For Pete’s sake, I’m turning 40 next month and I have never in my entire life had a wet dream! I’ve been a little too fond of my favorite past time that I haven’t allowed my body time enough to release things the natural way. Therefore, I’m all in for making a goal and giving up my monkey for lent! 🙂 When do we start, er, stop!? HAHA

  • I didn’t experience Lent until my 30’s when I joined a liturgical church. The 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (Sunday’s are mini-Easter’s and don’t count) remind us of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness after his Baptism. He fasted and faced temptations. I used to suggest Lenten disciplines to a friend like giving up movies or chocolate. He replied that it would mean the focus of Easter was being able to eat chocolate again. My Lenten discipline is reading the daily lectionary and thinking about Christ’s journey to Jerusalem and the cross. I ask myself if Christ’s coming out of the tomb into life is related to coming out of the closet into life. I wonder if behaving myself sexually means I’m a good person or if it just means I’m old and things don’t work as well. I think about the dark, lifeless places in my life & what holds me there.
    We’re loved. We don’t have to be ripped or cute or clever or dress well. It’s reality, not a masturbatory fantasy. Where do we take it from there? Something for me to contemplate this Lent so I can come out of my own tomb this Easter.

    • Thanks for sharing some of your Lenten journey with us, Richard. I see a lot of “coming out” parallels there. May we all step into life and life abundant as we lay down our other dependences in this season.

  • Interesting– I decided to do the same thing, but have wondered whether that was actually a good idea. Even though I don’t personally believe it’s sinful in itself, I’ve always thought of masturbation as something I couldn’t imagine living without (even for an extended time), often at the expense of my relationship with God. I pray the Spirit bears good fruit in you.

    • I’m probably mostly with you on the sinfulness aspect of masturbation, in addition to that mindset of “can I ever live without it?” A concept I blogged about many months ago. Regardless whether it’s sinful or not, I can’t escape this notion of reliance on something more than Christ. Definitely in a restructuring time of priorities and dependences in my life. A process that will certainly last far beyond this Lenten season.

  • I was scolling down my phone and hit Shocked by accident, if I was going to hit anything it would be Resonate. It’s crazy how you put ‘binge’ or ‘addiction’ after anything, that being with Jesus always suffers. I want my heart to be all in with Jesus all the time and the things in my life that make it clear that I’m not, it’s painful. From what you wrote you’re gonna be fine, your heart has found it’s bearings again. Someone said we’re more than conquerors in Christ cause God uses even our setbacks and failures to work good in us.
    btw, it must be a down south thing, but I never heard “tummy rumbles” associated with masturbation. It’s so, I don’t know, polite. Around here, “tummy rumbles” means I’m reaching for a cheesbuger or cheez-its. Hey, thanks for writing this Tom.

    • Whether you’re shocked or resonated, I’m grateful for your thoughts, bluz.
      And I was going for the metaphor with “tummy rumbles.” Feeling those “hunger pangs” but another sort of hunger, if you know what I mean.

      • You guys down south are too gentlemanly. We’ve got plenty of words for the act but not so much for before. I’d probably go with “aching maw of lust” but that’s not much of a metaphor. In any case, yeah, I know what you mean.

  • Hi, Thomas
    Although I am reading YOB since 2017, Just now I am feeling confortable to make this comment.
    Your decision for sexual sobriety is amazing. As a catholic married man, and SSA too, I can testify how harmful is the self erotism. How many times I have felt the failure as man when I have flew into my daydreams, ansious to find some
    connection, which was “gone by wind” so fast…
    I am praying in your intention… Courage, Christ is with you…
    P. S. As a portuguese speaker, my english is not so fluent. Sorry…

    • Well, thanks for being bold to comment! That’s awesome. I appreciate your taking that step. Your English is great. Thanks for praying for me. Really blessed by readers’ support and prayer covering.

  • Interesting thread for sure! I grew up in a church that never talked about fasting for lent, so I have never done anything like that.
    However…there was a time when I stopped masturbating for a season. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I worked for a Christian Service organization…I mentioned about being on call 24/7…I mentioned witnessing a nasty confrontation between 2 people that left me weeping. All these things and many more left me physically and emotionally exhausted. At night, when I got into bed, I immediately fell fast asleep…
    In God’s providence, the Mennonite-based church I was attending featured each month someone in the congregation who was involved in some type of Christian charity work. That time, a lady in the church who was a nurse spoke of working for a Christian holistic clinic based in another nearby church. Not feeling well, I scheduled an appointment for a complete physical. Well, I was fine, but they told me I was depressed and set up a schedule to talk with a counselor every 2 weeks. When I went to see him for the first time, he shut the door behind me and after a couple of preliminaries, his first question to me was “when is the last time you masturbated?” As a sexual assault and abuse “survivor” (NOT from anyone in family or church) I didn’t know what was going on. In my panicked mind, I began to freak out.
    The room began to spin…
    In the months I saw him, he did help me out…but that night after seeing him for the first session, I slipped back…

  • masturbation is always evil, as C.S. Lewis put it, it’s villany comes from taking an appetite which in lawful use calls us out of ourselves, and turns it inward onto an imaginary harem, always perfect, perfectly available, waiting for us, while harem might not be quite the right word in this situation, you get the point. By nature (philosophical not “what happens in the animal kingdom” sense) sex is open to life and unitive, masturbation is neither, and violating (actively working against) the nature of a human action violates our personal integrity.

    • I’d push back on “always” as some people can masturbate without lust. I’m generally not one of those people, but I take their word for it. Again, whether Scripture directly addresses masturbation is up to each person to determine.

  • I am entering this Easter season wondering how I can share in the Communion of Jesus Christ when I have allowed this new garment to become so spotted. I just threw a lot of my own doctrine in there, but I just had to get it out haha. Tom, I am right there with you. I have fallen back into a habit that only leaves me feeling more empty on the other side. I picture myself running back into a cell I was set free from because it is familiar. It is only after I calm down that I realize that which is familiar is the pain, loneliness, and the proverbial cackle of the Tempter as he revels in my failures. It is only then that I can fall on my knees (or face) and beg Jesus for intercession and an outstretched hand. I am sick of this wavering. As I recall Christ’s sacrifice this year. I hope I can bear my cross more willingly, that I can drink the bitter cup, and that the fleshly urges can be truly crucified that my calling and election is made sure.

  • Tom, I appreciate your vulnerability and courage in this post. My wife and I have talked about and explored this subject together over the last couple of months. We both have two different viewpoints. We both feel masturbation outside of the marriage bed is definitely out-of-bounds. But, we differ on teen masturbation, single masturbation, and perhaps when the wife is sick or disabled. I pretty much draw a hard line concerning the aforementioned categories, mostly because after I became a Christian at 15 I felt so darn bad after masturbation-it just felt like I was violating God’s design for me-and that cloud followed me into my early years of marriage when I traveled so much and got lonely in my hotel room. Did I stop-yes, but it took some doing. My wife, otherwise, has grace for the teen, single, and sick-wife-man. She thinks it’s ok-as long as lust is not involved. (I’m not convinced that is possible, but I have read for some men it is). She is a very astute student of men and she fully understands the backup every few days and the need for physical/emotional release. I can’t get there, but maybe she has the mind of Christ on this subject? I’m not sure.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Michael! I never did write the follow-up to this post from a year ago. I’m sure I’ll write a general “thoughts on masturbation” blog before too long. I learned and gained a lot of perspective in this particular Lenten season.

      • Tom,thanks! I would really like to hear your perspective on teen, single man, wife-too-sick married man on this subject. The more I have thought about this the more I think I might agree with my wife in giving allowance. I just can’t figure out why I have felt so darn bad in myself after I had done that in the past as a teen and single man? Maybe false guilt or was it truly the Holy Spirit?

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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