The English word ‘celibacy’ derives from the Latin word ‘caelebs’, meaning “unmarried.” As most people know, to be celibate means to refrain from engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person.

Celibacy has a long tradition stretching back hundreds of years. One of the first recorded celibates in history was Pythagoras, who established a small community of like-minded people to study philosophy in the sixth century. Pythagoras believed that engaging in physical relationships was distracting to the mind, and supported celibacy as a way to strengthen and improve philosophic thoughts.

People choose to be celibate for a variety of personal or religious reasons. Some, like Pythagoras, believe that refraining from sexual activity improves one’s mental thought processes. Others who are ascetic may feel compelled for spiritual or personal reasons to renounce a variety of behaviors, such as physical relations with the opposite sex, drinking, smoking, etc.

Religion is one of the most common motivators for celibacy. Historically, many different religions have demanded that its leaders be celibate. For Catholicism, the church instituted mandatory celibacy for all priests in the twelfth century. There is no clear-cut answer for why they decided to mandate celibacy. Religious scholars suggest that it may be related to the example that Christ set, the biblical writings of Paul that endorsed celibacy, or the practical fact that no children existed to inherit property away from the Church.

Many religions are transitioning away from celibacy. Buddhism, for example, traditionally upheld celibacy as the ideal for its monks and nuns. Yet public disapproval was so great that in 1872 state laws were enacted that allowed the clerics to marry and have children. In some branches of Catholicism, moreover, celibacy is expected for bishops but not necessary for all of the priests. More and more, exceptions are being made.

Interestingly, not all religions view celibacy as a positive thing. For instance, celibacy is actually discouraged in the Islamic religion. Marriage is encouraged for everyone, and raising a religious family is seen as one way to worship God.

For people who wonder if celibacy is healthy, that is a personal matter that everyone must decide individually. There are certainly times when it may seem better to abstain from having sex, at least for a while. For instance, after a long relationship breaks up, people may turn to fleeting physical relationships as a distraction from their suffering. They may view such interactions as good ways to get over the former partner. Perhaps the break-up has instilled feelings of inadequacy, which are then distilled by engaging in brief hook-ups with others.

Yet it is never a good sign if you come to depend on physical relationships to feel happy and confident. Do not be the kind of person who requires the affection of a stranger to feel validated. Do not seek out a physical relationship with someone just because you are feeling lonely.

When it comes down to it, you are the only person who can decide what is right for you. It is your body; you get to make the decisions. For those who feel conflicted over what is right for them, however, there are a few issues that you should consider.

Before having sex with someone, you should make sure that you understand the consequences. Are you ready to be a parent? It’s true that sex and children are by no means intertwined; if you or your partner practice safe sex and use contraceptives such as condoms or birth control pills, then you should be okay. Yet there is always the risk of an accident. Celibacy is the one absolute way to ensure that you will never run the risk of becoming pregnant or impregnating someone else.

As long as you take time to carefully consider your health and physical and emotional needs, you will most likely make the right decision for yourself. Do not conform to peer pressure. Make sure that you are acting on emotional desires, not just physical ones. While sex without love may satisfy these physical cravings, it can leave your emotional and spiritual side unfulfilled.

Do not rush into anything – you have your whole life to figure out what kind of lifestyle brings you the most happiness. If you feel like you need religious or emotional guidance, feel free to consult with your religious leader or school counselor to talk things over and decide what the best course is for you. And above all, remember that choosing celibacy or becoming sexually active is a personal choice! As long as you are of age, you get to decide what happens with your body. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers – only what feels best for you.

Thank you for reading!

This article is compliments of Dherbs.com.