What’s the Difference Between Celibacy & Abstinence?

March 1, 2017

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When I first decided to become abstinent, I couldn’t figure out which was the proper term to use. Abstinent or celibate? Me being my ever inquisitive self, I decided to do some research to get to the bottom of the definitions and appropriate uses for each. Was I making this to be too big of a deal? Perhaps.

Given the wording of my first sentence, I think it should be pretty obvious as to which word I settled on. But let me tell you why…

I noticed as I read definitions and uses for celibacy, it seemed to apply mostly to those who have taken lifelong vows of chastity such as priests (voluntarily) and eunuchs (involuntarily).


“Celibacy is for those who find special grace with God to transcend sexual desire and the need for a marriage partner

That definitely didn’t sound like what I was looking to do. As noble as it may be, I was not signing up for it (lol). So, I looked more into the definitions and uses for sexual abstinence.


“Sexual abstinence is a choice to refrain from sexual activity. This choice is usually made for a specific reason.”

This refers more to a person’s choice to forgo sex for a set reason (i.e to offer body as pure and holy sacrifice and to honor God) and a set period of time (i.e until marriage). Ding ding ding! I found my winner.

I realize this may just seem like a useless exercise in semantics or splitting hairs but it made sense to me to know what I was saying and why. Especially since it was with regard to something I was adopting as a lifestyle.



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