Why is masturbation a sin? It's natural!
"Why does Hashem cause maturation/masturbation to happen to 99% of adolescents and consider it a grave sin? Obviously, we are only human. It is upsetting to me to hear that most people fall through this 'sin' - when really it's only hormones and nature."
- A mother of 5 boys
Dear Mother of Boys,
Here's the thing. Sins are not like parking tickets--where the violation is clear and the fine is established. In the spiritual realm, Hashem judges each person and each sin according to their specific circumstances. What could be considered a grave sin for one person, may be insignificant for someone else. When an adolescent discovers masturbation for the first time, it is clear that Hashem does not consider it a sin. And even if the young man gets pulled into these behaviors addictively without realizing what he is doing or without knowledge of the seriousness of the prohibition, Hashem obviously will not consider this a sin. G-d understands us humans far better than we understand ourselves, and He has never-ending patience and love for us.
However, the struggle with purity, that every adolescent undergoes, is the fertile soil from which his true self is given a chance to shine. When a young man finally does discover that this is a sin, and particularly when he begins to understand the immense power behind sexuality and how it is able to bring forth life itself when channeled properly, Hashem wants that he should begin to feel a healthy sense of guilt which drives him to try and stop these behaviors. In the process of trying to stop, he begins to learn what he is really made of. This battle is what separates the men from the boys. It is precisely during the adolescent years when a person's maturity and soul begin to mature that these struggles play such a crucial role in one's spiritual progress.
If Hashem and Chazal had not written in such strong terms about the seriousness of this sin, it is doubtful anyone would bother even trying to stop. It is a powerful pleasure and so very addictive, that without a serious incentive to stop who would even try? I'd also like to point out that Chazal have used even stronger words when discussing the issur of Lashon Hara and of turning one's eyes away from a poor man, comparing these sins to the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry, and illicit relations! Yet, we rarely hear people ask, "Why does Hashem cause so many people to speak Lashon Hara and/or turn away from poor people and yet consider this a grave sin?" For some reason, when it comes to this particular sin of purity, many people question the seriousness and/or the appropriateness of the strong terminologies used by Chazal. I believe it is because we tend to feel more guilty and "dirty" with these sins. But Hashem is infinitely loving and patient with us. He knew that most of us would stumble in this area, and He is waiting for us to use the struggle as a springboard for growth. It is ok to have dirty laundry--we all do--as long as we make sure to keep doing our washes and never give up. But if the sin wouldn't be spoken about in strong terms, very few would even take on the battle.
By forcing us to learn self-control and to channel our animalistic desires properly, we are given the opportunity to build up our character and our souls.