Loneliness: Winter in the Heart

Roger Parks

The experience of loneliness has been very familiar to me although I wasn’t aware of its impact on me until later in life. Having grown up as only child in a rural setting, I spent a great deal of my youth alone. At the time, I considered it quite normal to play by myself since I was very shy and didn’t have the desire or confidence to cultivate any friendships. My active imagination enabled me to entertain myself by creating various scenarios of baseball games in my mind and then acting them out on the field next to our home. Needless to say, it’s very challenging to enact an entire baseball game when you have only one player!

During the years from age 12 through adolescence I never consciously perceived myself to be lonely. Having no close friends and lacking a strong connection with my parents, I immersed myself in watching sports, reading, and studying, all of which kept me busy and assuaged any sense of boredom. Then at age 13, I distinctly recall viewing my first photograph of a naked woman, not in Playboy or Penthouse, but in Life magazine, a mainstream family-oriented publication! It was a small picture of Marilyn Monroe lying on a blanket. Even though it wasn’t sexually explicit (we’d call it soft porn today), it was enough to stimulate my adolescent hormones and introduce me to the exciting world of sexual fantasy and its close companion masturbation.

I remember feeling guilty and yet very excited that I had found a new ‘hobby’ to entertain myself whenever I wanted. At that juncture in my life, I had not yet been exposed to pornography but that absence didn’t prevent me from generating my own images. Remember, I have an active imagination! Combining these self-generating images with those elicited from seeing actual girls at my high school served as a powerful source to fuel my masturbation habit which eventually developed into a daily practice, i.e., addiction.

During my early adult years I viewed pornographic magazines on a very sporadic basis as my embarrassment usually kept me from entering stores to buy them. The masturbation continued unabated and by that point I didn’t give much thought to the habit since it had become such a routine part of my life. There were occasional episodes of guilt, especially after becoming a Christian during college, but I never seriously considered eliminating the habit altogether. I compartmentalized it and assumed the rest of my life could function as normal. Then came the Internet which introduced me to the intoxicating world of cyberporn. Viewing countless images generated a sexual obsession and intensified the masturbation. Of course, like any addiction, one builds up a tolerance such that greater amounts of the substance are needed to produce the desired effect. Without realizing it at the time, I had found a way to address painful feelings of loneliness by comforting (self-medicating) myself through viewing Internet porn and masturbating to these images. This led to a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of loneliness ‘ distress ‘ self-medication ‘ guilt ‘ and more loneliness.

This cycle generated an intense conflict between my desire to please and honor God through maintaining sexual purity and my actual addictive behavior.

Feeling disconnected from God and powerless to overcome this addiction through my own efforts, I sought help from a group of men who have struggled with the same addiction. Among the several valuable lessons I’ve learned in my quest for sexual purity, the importance of accountability within the context of a caring community is critical. I firmly believe that as Christians, God calls us to bear each other’s burdens and struggles in truth and love so that the body of Christ truly does become a healing community for all those afflicted with sin and addictions.

Can you relate? You don’t have to go this alone. Please see Every Man’s Battle for help on this subject.

Singleness and Masturbation

Sam Fraser

We are familiar enough with the Scriptural mandates about sexual purity so I will say no more. During our season of singleness, masturbation is a very real and present temptation. As a Christian single man I struggled with it in the 70’s and 80’s failing more than I succeeded until I was married. Getting married however, did not cure me. Now having been divorced for several years, I am once again acquainted with the battle anew with masturbation as a single man.

Sex studies have concluded that for most men our sex drive, hormonally speaking, peaks at about age 15-20 or so. Since that is true as we move towards 25, 35, 45 and beyond, even though our sex drive begins to wane I didn’t notice that my frequency of acting out declined. So what gives?

The activity of masturbation is no longer exclusively about the amount of testosterone flowing through our veins. Rather it is an expression of another ‘drive’ taking place.

Of the many forces that could keep this battle raging, I want to address only one, loneliness. Acting out in this way actually may be a substitute for not having a special relationship. For many singles, from 25 on, it can become part of a lifestyle to manage loneliness.

This lesson took me from being an unmarried single into my 30’s, married into my 40’s, to divorced and single again to figure out.

As a single person I was never able to overcome this temptation alone, by myself, in isolation. I could white knuckle it for periods of time but never conquer it.

It was only after I was single again that I learned how much I needed to be connected to others. Having a couple of dear friends with whom I can share my needs, hurts and deepest feelings is like air and food–I can’t live without it! Until I had those kinds of people around me I was never able to have very much success in this important spiritual area of my life. I would masturbate the feelings of loneliness because I wasn’t connected.

For a long time I did not know how to admit this need.

With my boyhood training about being independent, self-reliant, and standing tall, coupled with “big boys don’t cry” attitudes that pretty much shut me down emotionally throughout my formative years and well into adulthood. I was programmed to grow up as a man to stand alone. To ask for help went against the very grain of my upbringing. Some men have been able to battle sexual temptation and succeed on their own. However, for me and many others like me I am unable to do it without help.

As a single man this becomes even more pronounced. Not having the type of friendships, or having the personal communication skills to express my loneliness openly and honestly had been my downfall. Since I couldn’t be real with my feelings, the development of a secret life became the place where I felt and acted in a manner that I didn’t feel was ok in my “real life.” Masturbation became the intimacy I craved in lieu of having a genuine relationship. Masturbation became the outlet I had substituted for healthy expressions of my maleness. It became sort of the social life that I did not have in real life. It was a way to cope with loneliness. It became the way to connect with myself since I was not connecting with others.

One of the great benefits of attending the Every Man’s Battle workshop is the opportunity, for many, the first time to be open and honest in a safe environment with other men to speak openly and frankly about this problem. We are all aware of the Scripture’s directives about sexual purity. But there are few places that we can openly discuss the struggles we have in this area of or spiritual life.

Churches and Christian men’s groups are beginning to respond to the need for men to talk about the battle. There are people and places that can support you. Find them or you call us at 1-800-NEW-LIFE for help.