Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 23, 2007


Our attitudes affect our health for good or ill


          There is little doubt that our health is determined to a great extent by our attitudes. Positive attitudes improve our health. Negative attitudes have a disease-inducing effect on the human body. This has been confirmed by the extensive research of many medical doctors.

          The mind has an enormous impact on the body. Attitudes and emotions constantly affect the body for good or ill. It is for this reason that many books are being written about stress management. If we can become wiser about how to manage our lives, the result will be healthier living.

          If you would like to research this subject I suggest you check out the book, Stress Without Distress, by Dr. Hans Selye, or the book by Dr. Brian Luke Seaward, Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being.

          Selye, for example, says that positive attitudes such as gratitude, praise, forgiveness, and joy will improve one’s health. However, he points out, negative attitudes such as anger, resentment, jealousy, and hate have a debilitating effect on one’s health.

          Seaward insists that stress management and good health cannot be attained without consideration of the spiritual dimension of life. The soul needs a sense of inner peace in order to cope well with the demands of life. So it behooves us to learn more about the interaction of the spirit (or soul) and the body, as well as the mind and the body.

          All of this raises many tough questions for which, I admit, I do not have all the answers. But that does not mean we should not seek answers. So consider this question: Can resentment cause a person to have arthritis? Surely in all cases the answer cannot be yes.

          However, there is little doubt that negative attitudes (such as resentment) can weaken the body’s resistance and make it more vulnerable to physical disease. Who says so? Well, for one, Dr. Loring T. Swaim does. I am indebted to my friend Maxie Dunnam for introducing me to Swaim.

Swaim, a physician, specialized in orthopedics for 50 years. At Harvard Medical School he lectured in arthritis for 20 years. In his book, Arthritis, Medicine, and the Spiritual Laws, he documents many case histories of persons who were set free from crippling diseases by surrendering resentment and bitterness and the submission of their self-will to God.

Swaim became convinced that negative attitudes toward others can be “causative” of rheumatoid arthritis and other organic diseases. And if not causative, then negative attitudes will definitely weaken our resistance and make us more vulnerable to disease.

If these medical doctors are right, then we might want to examine ourselves – now and on a daily basis – to see if we are allowing negative attitudes to make us vulnerable to disease. Some conclusions seem quite logical:

If I am harboring resentment toward someone, and that resentment is robbing me of my good health, then I need to stop resenting that person or anyone. After all, my resentment is not hurting the other person; it is hurting me.

If I am unwilling to forgive someone for what they have done to me or said about me, and my unforgiving spirit is making me vulnerable to physical disease, I need to forgive that person. If practicing forgiveness can contribute to my good health, then I need to get busy forgiving others.

If bitterness and jealousy are endangering my health, I would be a fool to go on being bitter and jealous.

If hatred toward someone is making me so angry that “I cannot see straight,” then I am paying a huge price – my good health – for the privilege of hating another person. The price is too high.

Good health is one of our most valuable assets. Surely not one of us is so foolish as to continue being negative if by becoming positive in our attitudes and emotions we can enhance our health. As in so many areas of our lives, it is simply a matter of choice. And the choice we make will affect our health for good or ill. + + +