I can’t tell you exactly why I started, but as a young teenage girl, I found myself habitually masturbating. Before I fully even understood what I was doing, I sensed instinctively that what I was doing was not right. It never made me feel better — rather, it would make me feel dirty, empty, and full of regret.
As I grew older and learned more about this sin, I heard many times that it was something that boys struggled with, but found myself believing it wasn’t really a girl thing. As if I didn’t instinctively feel damaged enough because of the habit I’d allowed myself to develop, I also grew to believe that I was the only girl who struggled with this. I let myself believe that something was wrong with me, that I was less female than other girls, that I was broken. I felt totally alone in my struggle with masturbation.
As I matured into young adulthood, I tried multiple times to try to quit. I even made a promise to God that I would stop if He helped me — but that was a promise that I failed to keep. I would think about how uncomfortable it would be to tell my future husband one day that I had struggled with masturbating for so long; and when I thought about that hypothetical conversation, sometimes I’d just tell myself that I would probably never get married in the first place, because I deserved to be punished — I could never be worthy of a good husband. And in all of this, I felt so, so alone.
I knew what I was doing wasn’t right and was a grave sin, as it was an outright rejection of the fullness of love that Jesus wanted to give me. But I still found myself committing it. I would rationalize it every time, telling myself that God wouldn’t give me sexual desires if they weren’t going to be satisfied, that the temptation was the Enemy’s fault so I can blame him for my struggle with masturbation, and that I was already so deep in sin, what was another?
The Difficult Request for Mercy
I wondered over and over why masturbation was so challenging for me to overcome and why, even though I knew the weight of it, I couldn’t seem to get myself to stop. Yet, ever since my earliest struggles with it, I refused to ask Jesus for His mercy and for His grace to overcome this sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I refused to confess this sin for two reasons: because I was more ashamed of this sin than anything else I’d done in my life and because I was so convinced that no other female on the planet struggled with this.
I would talk my way out of confessing my sin of masturbation and would tell myself that I didn’t need to confess it (although I now know that waiting to confess this sin only caused me greater harm). I wondered why I couldn’t seem to overcome this sin, but all this time, I’d been refusing to let Jesus heal and restore this dark part of my heart. It was like I’d hidden a small, broken, rotting part of my heart from the only One who could bring it back to life; I was trying to bring it back to life by my own power, but my own power ran short. Yet Jesus was there, the whole time, inviting me back to him, inviting me to allow him to heal this dark part of my heart. I was allowing myself to die spiritually, suffocating myself with this sin.
Gradually, I began to understand that, if I wanted a true relationship with our Lord and if I wanted to overcome this sin, I was going to have to ask for His help and receive His grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Beautiful Gift of Mercy
It’s not easy to admit to masturbation to priests in Confession; it is not easy to name this sin; it was not easy to estimate the amount of times I’d committed it. But as soon as I did so, I felt an enormous weight that haunted my life lift off of me. And the shock and disgust that I anticipated from all the priests I’ve ever confessed this to was replaced by compassion and understanding. Furthermore, I received the fullness of God’s mercy and he made that dark part of my heart new again — I had been brought back to spiritual life — I could breathe again. What’s more is that the grace I received from the sacrament of Reconciliation gave me strength that I didn’t have on my own. Although the temptation didn’t disappear and the struggle didn’t dissolve, since asking Jesus for his mercy for this sin in Reconciliation, I have found an inexplicable strength in overcoming this sin — a strength that is not my own. Jesus has given me His strength to fight this temptation, not because I don’t want to be separated from Him, but because He doesn’t want to be separated from me.
He was seeking me through it all and, even when I’d cut myself off from Him, by refusing to ask Him to heal my heart, He found ways to give me courage to ask for his sacramental healing. If you struggle with the sin of masturbation, there are three things I want you to know:
1. You are NOT alone
Since I’ve asked Jesus to heal me of this sin and give me the strength to overcome it, I’ve been empowered to share my struggle with other girls I’ve encountered, and if they haven’t struggled with the same sin themselves, they fully understand. I’ve never admitted this sin to anyone and seen them shudder or scoff — anyone I’ve shared this with has always responded with love and understanding.
2. Jesus wants to heal you
The sin of masturbation is a temporary and flawed response to the desire for infinite love that we all have in our hearts. Jesus wants to be the permanent and complete response to that desire. He wants to be enough for us — not because He wants us to have zero pleasure in this life, but because He wants us to order our pleasure rightly so that we don’t end up getting hurt. The emptiness that I felt every time I fell into this sin is not what I was made for; the life in union with Christ that I have since asking for His mercy in Confession — that’s what I was made for.
3. The power of Confession is real
Going into Confession and being fully honest with ourselves and with Christ is never easy. It’s not easy because we are constantly tempted to believe that everything is fine, we don’t need Jesus, we can get by on our own. But why would we want to try to get by on our own, when Jesus offers us His grace, which heals us of our wounds and empowers us to live virtuously? In the sacrament of Confession, Jesus assures us that we don’t need to keep trying to get by on our own, that He will help us, as He pours His very life into us in the very moment that we open ourselves up to it. God’s grace isn’t confined to the sacraments, but the surety of the grace He pours out in the sacraments is an extremely important to seek out when seeking to live virtuously.
Confessing your sins won’t suddenly make all your temptations go away for good, but there is real grace that Jesus gives us in the sacrament. It is grace that gives us strength to overcome those counterfeits of love and satisfaction that we so often reach for, as we struggle to know the infinite love for which we were made. It’s up to us if we want to be bold enough to ask Jesus for that grace and humble enough to receive it.
If you share this struggle with me, especially if you’re a girl and you feel alone, please don’t be afraid. You are not alone. The more I’ve opened up about my struggle, the more I’ve learned how far from alone I was as a young woman who struggled with masturbation.
Whether it’s a struggle you share with others or not, know that it is not as uncommon as you’re tempted to believe. And know that turning to masturbation will not satisfy the desires for infinite love that you have in your heart. It might feel right for a moment, but it is not the fullness of the goodness you were made for.
Jesus made you for more and He invites you to more. Have courage to ask Him for the grace to live for that more that He has for you.