The Dark Plant

Imagine somebody trying to overcome a habit of gluttony who spends his free time watching cooking shows, and who, every time he passes a bakery, stops to breathe the smells in deeply for a full minute.

It’s not going to work. The temptation to overeat doesn’t occur in isolation: it’s a symptom of a broader mindset. We notice the overeating because it’s obvious, and because we feel bad afterwards. But we don’t always notice what led up to it, because we’ve gotten in the habit of letting ourselves get away with these things — and because, in and of themselves, they might not even be sinful.

In the same way, if you’re trying to kick a porn or masturbation habit, you’re not going to succeed unless you — sorry about this — change your life. The actual act of masturbating or viewing porn, as damaging as it is, might not be the most serious problem you face.

Going around with an eye that gobbles up little sexual details all through your day, and lingers a second too long on every bit of bare skin it sees; habitually viewing your fellow human beings, not as brothers and sisters and fellow immortals, but as mechanisms with the potential to satisfy your cravings — this is the real problem, the real disease.

The act that follows, at a weak moment, isn’t the point. That’s just the inevitable flowering of the dark plant that you’ve been watering, and tending, and singing to, all day long.

20 Comments on “The Dark Plant”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s true. The masturbation habits needs to be broken by breaking your other habits. If you do it at X time, then at X time you have to be doing something else.

    A lot of Hail Maries and a lot of small mortifying sacrifices on other things that have nothing to do with masturbation. So you feel like a chocolate bar, but you don’t eat it. Or you feel like taking the bus, but you walk instead.

    Everything has to change.

  2. TS says:

    St Philomena, pray for us! 🙂

  3. John says:

    This is what a confessor reminded me of recently. Purifying the intentions of one’s heart is absolutely necessary.

    As an aside, this blog of yours is pure belter, Steve.

  4. K.D. says:

    Amen, hallelujah.

  5. Joseph says:

    Too true! On a cultural level, it’s why we get so upset when someone you love is clearly going to near occasions of sin… Why a guy will get upset when his girlfriend or wife is flirting… no they aren’t *technically* cheating, but there’s really only one direction it leads to… or when a woman gets upset when her partner is staring at other women… no it’s not *technically* cheating, but, as Christ put it, he as already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    And what is even more important to remember is to seek the reason we fall into these sins in the first place. A young substitute priest really opened this up to me during confession. I know personally, thoughts about how am I ever going to get this schoolwork done almost always end in either very strong urges to commit sexual sin, or a strong urge to get as drunk as possible. Thoughts dwelling on my loneliness usually end the same way. It helps me to remember that, because then I can’t rationalize my way into the sin… I know that it’s not really a sexual need, but my stress and loneliness, that are the problem. And then I can take action to solve those problems, or at least to bring them to prayer (avoiding the occasion is still a must). He also stressed the need to meditate on the pierced side of Christ, as a reminder of how he gave every single last part of himself for me, and that as a man I must also do the same.
    Here is the article he told me to read:

  6. Briana says:

    I’ve been working on this. Wearing my St. Philomena cord helps, because I don’t let myself even get near that stuff anymore. Having the constant reminder on my wrist and the prayer on my lips keeps me in check.

  7. Scott says:

    As I battle my own habits of gluttony I am grateful for finding Another who is struggling with being Catholic, gay, and chaste.

  8. Dolores says:

    Thanks, Joseph, for sharing the words of your substitute priest – they certainly right true for me.

  9. Dolores says:

    I meant “ring true”

  10. Connor says:

    So true, you give here, give in there and soon enough you find yourself in the same sad self defeating cycle.

  11. California Jack says:

    Good words, Steve.

  12. Jon. says:

    Easier said then done, my brother. Oremus ad Invincem!

    1. Translated: “Let us pray to one another.” That sounds like a bad idea. 😉

  13. mary says:

    “Going around with an eye that gobbles up little sexual details all through your day, and lingers a second too long on every bit of bare skin it sees; habitually viewing your fellow human beings, not as brothers and sisters and fellow immortals, but as mechanisms with the potential to satisfy your cravings — this is the real problem, the real disease.”

    YOU ARE Really correct.

  14. vj says:

    Thanks for posting this, Steve. This is exactly what I needed to read at this time. God bless and keep you always!

  15. Nathaniel says:

    I just found your post/blog and have been reading through. While we maybe different, a lot of your work speaks to me and I do like this post because the metaphor you chose is extremely apt. A dark, writhing, Lovecraftian plant-thing that consumes and destroys in an endlessly hungry, selfish orgy that drives men to ruin and madness but, occasionally, bears necessary fruit (children) is exactly how I view sexuality in general.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love kids and I know they are a blessing, but I do wish it could come from anything besides this terrible, hurtful, misery inducing activity. It is momentary pleasure with potentially infinite consequences. The only way one could view it as a blessing, at least in my eyes, is through some sort of endorphin induced “beer goggles” because surely a more lasting happiness could be achieved in a better way? Perhaps I am wrong.

    I happen to be homoromantic and a Catholic (well, probably Heretic, unfortunately). I make the distinction of homoromantic and not homosexual because I don’t really crave sexual contact with other men, or women, but I do want to cuddle up to men, hug them, nuzzle them, and the like. I could be sexual, but only ever with one special person. I wish I could find someone who understood how I feel. I am really tired of being lonely, but this situation could prove to be a blessing since I was raised and confirmed a Catholic back in my more confused days. In hindsight, I am thankful I have an average and forgettable demeanor.

    Perhaps misery and loneliness can be blessings too, as pain helps us remember the pain we cause others and teaches us empathy. Like self flagellation in the middle ages, Christ walked a path of agony and misery before us as well, as did the Saints. Our empathy is imperfect so we need reminders of what life is really about – that is suffering for our sins, for others well being, and for God’s glory. That may be a more helpful way of looking at it, anyways.

    Hollow comfort, but then again, I suppose comfort isn’t the point of life, is it? We are called to be pilgrims and truth seekers, willing to gouge out our eyes if they offend God. Sadly, cutting a part of your body off won’t fix what afflicts us (I actually looked into everything from elective castration to destruction of the amygdala as potential cures). To risk sounding overly optimistic, perhaps our misery is the essence of what it means to be Christian and, thus, we get a special understanding that normal people may struggle to achieve (and, thus, we can teach people that pain is temporary and to not lose hope, because we are there with them, carrying a cross of our own). I hope a life of hardship followed by a chance of being damned forever or permanently destroyed serves some special purpose or helps other people find the light.

    I am, unfortunately, a heretic in the strictest sense since I don’t think I could go without any hope of any special someone in my life (which I believe constitutes an obstinate rebellion to the infallibility of the Magisterium). I am not seeking or dating around, leaving it in God’s hands, so to speak and pursuing my life. I don’t need someone to complete me or anything, but it is one of my biggest wishes and has been forever. I have always dreamed of meeting someone special I could care for and count on to care for me. While I am not as strict in my dedication to celibacy as you, I remain celibate by my apparently outrageous wishes for a completely, exclusively monogamous relationship (as hypocritical as it may sound, while I may personally doubt that homosexuality is disordered, I am unswerving in my dedication to live a life free from what I see as fornication – sex outside of a dedicated, stable, exclusive, life long relationship). I recently became thirty years old, so the likelihood of me meeting someone special is decreasing and will become negligible in five years, statistically.

    Maybe that is the sign that I was waiting for. I wish we could go back to being kids where I could hug other guys and love my best friends again without it being polluted by this awful, evil darkness that curses us through adulthood. I’d do anything to go back to a time where I could just curl up in a friends lap while he brushes my hair, free of tension or the perversity inherent to sexuality. Sorry for the vent but it did have a lot to do with this post (or the post helped me formulate long held feelings into words). Maybe it is a curse I can find a way to help others with as you have. Good luck with the writing. God bless you.

  16. mikell says:

    Love and sex are two different departments with a connecting door. A door you don,t have to open. It,s not all that complicated.

    1. My goodness, human history would be so very different if that were true.

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