Alternative lifestyle choices: Celibacy
This article discusses celibacy and why people may choose it as a permanent or temporary lifestyle.
Celibacy is usually roughly defined as refraining from sexual relations with someone else. While it is often considered a passé lifestyle since the advent of the sexual revolution, some people still live celibate lives– either temporarily or as a permanent lifestyle choice– for a variety of reasons.
When people think of those who remain celibate, the obvious groups who come to mind are Catholic priests and nuns. However, there are other groups who maintain celibacy for religious reasons, including Buddhist monks and nuns. In both faith traditions, the basic aim is the same: to allow the person to focus on the spiritual, rather than the physical.
While this may be an oversimplification, the scope of this article does not allow for the exploration of the specific tenets of these faiths. However, this is usually the basic premise for all who maintain lifetime celibacy for religious reasons.
Religious reasons can also be the impetus behind those maintaining temporary celibacy. Christian teaching dictates that those who are unmarried should remain celibate. Christianity teaches that the only pure sexual relationships occur within the context of marriage. In recent years, programs such as “True Love Waits” have been popular in churches, since these programs stress abstinence until marriage, and couch abstinence in a religious context. Many adult Christians who have never been married, or who are divorced or widowed, also choose to remain celibate until they marry– if they marry. Some individuals feel their sexual desires and/or tastes are incompatible with the teachings of their religion, and choose to maintain celibacy for this reason, as well.
Most of those who maintain celibacy for religious reasons feel they have been called by God to this lifestyle, particularly as part of a religious vocation. But most of those who are celibate for religious reasons feel that God may be relied upon for the strength to withstand sexual temptation and to maintain a lifestyle of sexual purity.
Even married couples may choose to abstain from sexual relations for a time, as a religious act. This is somewhat akin to fasting, or giving up something else desirable, in order to practice self-denial, dependence on God, and to focus exclusively on the spiritual for a particular amount of time.
People also choose to remain celibate for personal reasons. Some adults have a diminished libido and feel that a sexual relationship would be too difficult to maintain, and unfair to a partner. Others simply have no interest in a sexual relationship, and therefore do not pursue one. Some also may feel that their sexual desires are perverted or deviant and may be harmful to others, so they choose celibacy, as well. Some persons who are sexual addicts may choose to live celibate lives until they form an appropriate, healthy relationship. Until then, they may feel that having sex, even when not indiscriminately, is not conducive to their recovery.
Celibacy, like other lifestyle choices, is often chosen after a great deal of thought, and in many cases, prayer and meditation. However, whether it is a temporary or permanent choice, the celibate lifestyle is often not an easy one.
Most humans have inborn sexual drives, and these are powerful. A celibate person may face great frustration, distress, or feelings of being unfulfilled as a person. Those who undertake it for religious reasons, as mentioned above, depend on their spiritual lives for the strength to continue. Others may have therapists or sponsors who help them keep on in their chosen life. In any case, celibacy is not a matter for jokes or laughter. Most people who live this lifestyle are serious about it and have serious reasons for doing it. They should be respected.