This is the second half of a two-part series on the topic of women and masturbation. If you missed my first post, I highly recommend reading it before you read this one. In the first post, I shared about my journey to finding freedom from this struggle as well as three reasons masturbation is problematic for Christian women. You can read the first post here.
Understanding the damaging effects of lust and masturbation in our lives is only the first half of the equation. The second half is actually doing something about it. Old habits die hard, and sin’s grip is tight. Breaking free from a habitual sin isn’t easy, but it can be done. With the power of Christ on our side, we can be more than conquerors in this area (Rom. 8:37).
6 Strategies for Defeating Lust and Masturbation
In this post I want to give you six practical strategies that helped me overcome lust and masturbation in my life, and will hopefully help you overcome these struggles too.
Confess to God and Tell Someone
The biggest problem with our sin isn’t that we feel sad and guilty about it–it’s that we’re sinning against a perfect and holy God. We are ignoring Christ’s death on the cross and rebelliously choosing to be obey our flesh. The first step to finding freedom from any sin is to humbly confess it to God.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
The next step is to confess your struggle to your spouse, or a godly Christian woman. During my teen years when I struggled with masturbation, I chose to confess my struggle to my parents. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. But through that confession, I found an abundance of freedom and peace. Be willing to humble yourself and share your struggle with someone.
Choose to Fight the Battle
So often we struggle day in and day out with a certain sin because we’re not choosing to aggressively battle against it. In our minds we say, “I hate this, I want to defeat this!” but then we do very little to actually defeat the sin.
Galatians 5:17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Our flesh is weak and craves what is contrary to righteousness. Therefore, we have to actively battle against our flesh in order to conquer our sin. The rest of the strategies on this list will show you how to go to battle.
Memorize the Word Daily
God’s Word has power. If we want to overcome our sin, we must be faithful to fill our minds with His truth. As we resist the desires of our flesh and the seduction of this world, we must saturate our minds with God’s truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
God’s Word has the power to convict us of sin, and to remind us of the hope we have in Christ. If we’re not actively filling our minds with truth, we will default to believing lies. Whenever you feel the temptation coming on, redirect your thoughts to some key passages that you’ve memorized. Here are some great verses to start with: Psalm 19:14, Psalm 51:10, James 4:7, 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Pray, Pray, and Pray Some More
You are not alone in your fight. You have a loving heavenly Father who cares for you and wants to hear from you. Talk to Him through prayer. Confess your sins, cry out to Him for strength, and praise His holy name. Be intentional to start every day off with prayer.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. We cannot conquer sin on our own, so cry out to our powerful God who has conquered sin and death. Pray when you wake up, pray throughout your day, and pray before you go to bed.
Get an Accountability Partner
Confessing your struggle to someone is a great first step, but don’t stop there. Since the flesh is weak, it is extremely helpful to have someone hold you accountable on a weekly basis. Don’t fight this battle alone. Find someone to talk to. As hard as it may be, humble yourself and ask a godly woman to hold you accountable in this area. Ask her to follow up with you on a regular basis (via text, email, phone call, or in person) and ask how you’re doing.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Have your accountability partner pray with you and for you throughout the week. This is a huge step (and one many people neglect) in finding freedom from ongoing sin.
Ditch Unhealthy Entertainment
Since sexualized media is so widely accepted (porn, erotica, etc.), we often fill our minds with endless garbage and wonder why our thoughts stray. Filling our minds with scenes containing passionate sexual acts, partial nudity, and sensual actions isn’t going to help us win the battle against lust.
Romans 13:14 commands us to, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Make no provision. I want to encourage you to examine your media intake and intentionally ditch anything that is making a provision for your flesh. Choose to throw it away and instead fill your mind with God honoring content.
I pray this strategy plan is helpful for you as you fight the battle against lust in your life.
In addition to the six action steps above, I also encourage you to grab a copy of Josh Harris’ little book titled, Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is. This book was–hands down–the most helpful tool God used to help me gain freedom from masturbation.
May God give you the wisdom, strength, and courage to take serious steps toward freedom today. And may your life be another testimony of God’s power, grace, and freedom from sin.
I have struggled with masturbation since I was about twelve years old, before I even knew what it was. I’d felt that it was wrong, and fought time and again to stop. I’d been a believer since I was about six, and did everything I could to balance out the guilt and shame I felt every time I would fall, be that working extra hard in my church or in my schoolwork or picking books that wouldn’t cause me to stumble. I felt angry all the time, and I felt ashamed and frustrated because I couldn’t share what I was dealing with because I was so ashamed.
I am now on my early twenties, and am engaged to a wonderful, loving, Godly man who uses Covenant Eyes and makes it very clear that he is pursuing a life of purity. I have not told him of my struggle, and only recently told a close female friend of it because I was tired of hiding it, but felt afraid that someone would only see me as the fraud that I’ve felt that I was. I want to tell him, preferably before we enter premarital counseling, so that we can enter marriage without shame or guilt. I want to work towards freedom in Christ, and I know I cannot do that by hiding.
Masturbation is normal! It feels good, and it’s a part of your whole self, which includes your sexuality. It’s private, but it’s not shameful. It shouldn’t take over your life, but it’s fine as a part of your healthy physical self.
Problems arise with masturbation, as with many other good things, when we use it as an unhealthy coping mechanism when we are overly stressed, upset, etc. We can all be vulnerable to using good things–food, wine, exercise, Netflix–to cope in unhealthy ways. Instead of feeling our feelings and processing through them, we substitute a behavior that feels good in the moment but didn’t actually solve the problem and may in fact produce more problems.
Unfortunately, there is huge shame around sexuality in Christian circles. Often, shame itself becomes the problem, as you feel distressed over shame from masturbation, you then masturbate to feel better in the moment. As you’ve noticed, the shame you felt had a number of negative results in your life.
You might like this short animation I made recently, Interruping Shame Cycles.
Of course it’s fine to talk about this with your fiance. I’m sure that his “commitment to purity” includes a lot of shame and guilt around sexuality as well–it’s just inevitable, given the toxic climate of shame in purity culture. The key to good sexual health will be moving beyond the shame and expectations of perfection into acceptance and understanding of yourself and one another. If this turns out to be an ongoing problem, especially with the shame, there are good Christian counselors who specialize in healthy sexuality.
Peace to you,
I don’t know, Kay… I have a very (almost strangely) similar background to Jessica with masturbation, and even before I knew what it was, I never felt “good” about it. I mean, it felt good, but I never felt that it was good. I came upon this article because I am finally realizing all my efforts to stop by myself have been futile, and I am going to be working with a friend to address it.
(If you respond), I imagine you’d refute my statement by saying that I feel shame about it because of the Christian culture I’ve grown up in–that’s entirely possible, haha. (Believe you me, I have a lot of similarities with your background of feeling I have to “live up” to expectations…[sigh]). But I also believe the Holy Spirit will give us little nudges to what’s right against what’s wrong (my main problem is that I don’t listen)–so even though I didn’t have any external means of knowing that masturbation was wrong when I was twelve, deep down it just didn’t feel right. Still doesn’t. So I’m going to be taking active steps (again!) to address it. :)
Of course you have every right to manage your life in the way that you find meaningful and helpful to you.
In my opinion and experience, shame is the driver for many of the behaviors we find maladaptive in our lives, and when we solve the shame problem, we find that the maladaptive behaviors are less necessary.
Contemplative prayer is a wonderful way to open yourself to the experience of God’s Love, if you ever want to give Love a shot.
Peace to you,
I appreciate your openness–I will try to replicate. :) What do you mean by contemplative prayer?
hi, I’ve been struggling with masturbation and reading erotica for a while now.
it started when I was younger and I didn’t even know what I was doing, just that it felt good. When I realised it was sinful, I tried to stop.i would be free rom it for months, during rough times, days but I found myself falling into the sin again and again and it makes me feel horrible. I’m trying but sometimes I let my guard down and deliberately put myself into compromising positions like trying to read stuff and hoping I won’t fall. and it sounds stupid, I really don’t understand why I allow myself to do it even though I know it’s wrong. last night, I fell into the sin again and while I was masturbating, I felt no pleasure but I kept doing it anyway.it’s like the temptation comes, you give into it, it promises you satisfaction but you find none. The only satisfaction you have is in Jesus and I know that, so why do I keep sinning in this way? I repented but I’m scared. I don’t want to be like this. I want to please God in everything I do.
First of all, I want to encourage you by reminding you that you are not alone. I think it is amazing that you want to please God and are working to be free from masturbation.
It sounds like some form of accountability is needed in your life. Do you have a close friend, church leader, or mentor (preferably another woman) with who you can share your struggles and ask for prayer and wisdom? They can walk alongside you and check in on you. They also can be someone whom you reach out to when you are feeling tempted, even if it’s just a quick text or phone call! You can overcome this addiction on your own, but I think you will find it much easier if you have someone else in on your journey.
I also want to recommend two great free resources for you: our new resource page for women, and Hobbies and Habits.
Keep fighting, dear friend. Freedom is SO worth it!
I was considering thoughts you presented on shame, and I think I understand better now why I partially agree and partially disagree.
I completely agree that shame contributes to maladaptive functioning and that it has permeated much of our church culture–I believe that it forms one of the legs of legalism, which is not helpful or biblical: Jesus didn’t “use it” to draw people to Himself, but rather love (as you have indicated as supremely superior to shame). One of my references would be the adulterous woman He stopped from being stoned. I can personally attest to the maladaptive function of shame in my life.
However, I do believe shame is different from guilt, which does have adaptive merit (exceptions acknowledged). In my understanding, the idea of shame has to do with “I am an awful person,” whereas the idea of guilt is “I have done an awful thing.” Shame, I believe, separates us from God’s love because we get wrapped up in a cycle of believing we can never be good enough to be loved. Guilt, I believe, has the potential to draw us to God’s love because, even though we have done (and recurrently do) things against His will, He loves us anyway. Jesus embraced the adulterous woman with love (not shame), but He also told her to “sin no more” (for she was guilty of adultery).
I haven’t read the book yet (it’s on it’s way), but based on the title, I believe the shame culture around sexuality is part of what Joshua Harris is addressing in his book Sex Isn’t the Problem (Lust Is).
I could be completely harping on semantics, but I do believe the nuanced distinctions between shame and guilt, and especially their relation to how we interact with God and others, is significant to our Christian walk and our progress as people in general.
Thanks for the dialogue! :)
I came across this article and I’m praying for healing and deliverance from masturbation and porn. I’ve struggled with both since I was a young at least 6 years old. The Lord saved me when I was 25 – I’ve been married for over 20 years yet I still struggle with both. I’m tired of the shame and the guilt and want SO much to be free.
I came to this article because I am tired of this feeling of what it seems like, being a slave in chains to masturbation or being controlled like a puppet. I am nineteen, I know what is right and wrong, yet I do it anyways. I want to stop it, It started at the age of 8 and it has been getting worse since. It seems like it is growing stronger as I get older, the desire for the sexual drive. I am currently attending a Seventh Day Adventist School and I do want to confined in someone to help me understand, also to overcome this.
Thank you for reaching out here and sharing your desire to change. Please know that you are not alone. Even though we know what is right and wrong, sin still creeps into our lives and can be very difficult to overcome. I want to encourage you to reach out to someone and ask for help. This could be a school counselor, a church leader, a parent, or a close friend whom you trust. Accountability is an incredible tool in overcoming addiction. Although it may seem scary to tell someone, pray that God gives you the courage and strength.
No matter how long you have been fighting this, you CAN overcome it!
Please help I have been struggling with masturbation since the death of my husband 16 years ago we were very sexually active while he was alive and now that he’s gone all I can think about is having sex I have prayed but I still have to have some kind of satisfaction in my life I need to know where I can turn to I know this is a sin against God‘s will to satisfy flash but when you’re sexually active for 32 years then all of a sudden it’s over please help
There is nothing wrong with your sexuality. It’s normal to have a sex drive. It’s healthy. I don’t think your problem is with masturbation. I think your problem, like a lot of us who grew up in purity culture, is shame.
Once you have shame intertwined with sexuality, then you’re very likely to develop obsessive thinking and habits, due to the anxiety that shame brings. I really think that the way out of this is to re-examine what we’ve been taught in purity culture, and to get out of the shame cycles.
God gave us our sexuality. It is a gift, just like our other healthy bodily appetites. There is nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with masturbation. It is not a sin. The only problem is the shame that surrounds it, due to the faulty teachings of purity culture.
You might benefit from reading Pure by Linda Kay Klein, which takes on the damage caused by purity culture. Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Webber might be another good title to look into.
I hope this helps,
The article is like a light bulb going on. I’ve had a vague awareness that what I was doing may be wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on why. Now I truly feel the knowledge alone will strengthen me. Like you, Debbie, I was married and lovingly active for many years – but that passed, and now, even in my late 60s, the desires are still there. Try re-reading the article and see if you can find strength there. Also, something that helped me in the past, when it was temptation by a man, not by my own self, was asking half a dozen women friends to pray hard for me, as a spiritual hedge around me. It was so very humbling, especially at my age, but trust me God is faithful. Hope this encourages you with hope of overcoming. <
I dont have any one else I would like to confess this to, other that the anonymity of the web and God.
I had been good since the beginning of the year, and then yesterday and just now I had sex with myself and I wish I could just rewind time.
I feel awful, and that bad things will now happen but I am trying to stay positive. Is there a prayer I can say that will help me feel the forgiveness God gives?
Thank you for being open and honest in your confession! Please know that you are not alone. When walking towards recovery, relapsing is common. I don’t say this as an “excuse” for your relapse, but more as an encouragement to you that you can still be free. Have you read this blog post about relapse?
Although I don’t have a specific prayer for you, I would encourage you to read and pray through Psalm 32. Although our human nature is sinful, we have an amazing God who forgives us of these sins, when we repent. In our weakness, Christ makes us whole!
I am praying for you! Be strong. Keep fighting!
I enjoyed reading this article and comments related to this post. However, in my situation, I have been celibate for 13 years and I have a very high sex-drive. I’ve visited my gynecologist and I was told that my levels are normal. I desire a husband, but until that time, I have the urge to masturbate daily. I’m in a daily battle to resist this urge, but it’s very difficult. I haven’t masturbated since Jan 2020 and it’s so hard. I will admit that I watch romance movies (not porn), but close, when I feel the urge. I instantly feel ashamed and I know that this is not pleasing to GOD. I also have a teenaged daughter and I don’t want to become a disappointment to her. I mean, how can I help her with struggles that she’s facing when I’m tackling my own. I’m trying so hard to stay strong for her and to become a positive role model. Please keep me in your prayers as I believe lust is the major problem. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reaching out here and asking for advice! That takes courage and honesty! Please know, first of all, that you are not alone. Men aren’t the only ones who struggle with masturbation and pornography; women do too!
Do you have a close friend or mentor whom you can reach out to and share your journey with? Perhaps someone who can regularly meet with you, pray over you, and offer you Godly wisdom when you are feeling tempted. I would also encourage you to read Scripture and pray with your daughter! When I was a teen, my mom would take one night a week to sit with me and go through a women’s Bible or book study together. It grew us closer as parent/teen and also encouraged us both in our walk of faith.
Above all, keep turning to Christ as your primary source of strength. You have a heart to please him, and in him, you can remain free!
I am praying for you,
http://www.sa.org is a fantastic organization! A 12-step spiritual approach. Co-ed groups help to get out of isolation and relate to men as brothers in program. Humanize vs objectivize.