When Attitude Spoils Health

You may know the eight principles of health, but do you know what is just as important for promoting health?

Source: Katia Reinert

Many people believe that the health message is exclusively about the eight principles of health mentioned by Ellen G. White. And although nutrition, physical activity, and the other natural remedies are essential for a full, abundant life (John 10:10), sometimes we forget that attitude is just as important—perhaps more important—in promoting health.

A mean reformer

Have you ever met a “mean” health reformer? You probably have—if not in church, perhaps in a secular health-food store. I recently read a study comparing “organic” food lovers/vegans to those who did not subscribe to that lifestyle. The researcher concluded that the organic food lovers/vegans seemed to be more judgmental and “mean “to others than the second group was. The author explained, “When people can pat themselves on the back for their moral behavior, they can become self-righteous.”1

Of course, that is not true in our church, right? Our church has many loving, kind, Christ-like health reformers—my grandparents were among them! They motivate and encourage others, walking beside people as they journey together. But, if and when we find that “mean” exception, that person’s self-righteous attitude not only works against persuading others to follow God’s health plan for the last days, but their attitude also spoils health, bringing negative health consequences to themselves and those around them.

An altruistic educator

We know that people were attracted to Jesus because of His love. Wherever He went, His message seemed to say, “I love you and care about you.” His love brought healing to those He encountered. Love heals, and today, science confirms that. Jesus’ “agape” love is studied in science as “altruism,” a virtue that is linked to better mental and physical health in adults and teenagers.

In these studies,2 when people kindly assisted others or when they received loving help from someone, these behaviors predicted better mental health, regardless of age, gender, income, health, stressful events, and whether or not they prayed for healing. Isn’t that amazing? More importantly, giving kind help was a stronger predictor of better mental health than receiving help. So, the kind, loving person seems to benefit most. On the other hand, those who felt overwhelmed by others’ demands (even if the demands were well-intentioned)—well, that negative, overwhelming feeling was also an independent predictor of poor mental health.

Paul says, “If your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love [altruism]. . . . Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God” (Romans 14:15, 19-20, ESV).

Your call!

As we read the scientific studies, we are reminded that as spiritual leaders, we are called to model as well as to motivate other leaders in their walk with the Lord so that the

As we read the scientific studies, we are reminded that as spiritual leaders, we are called to model as well as to motivate other leaders in their walk with the Lord so that the fruits of the Holy Spirit may be seen first in the lives of every leader. Altruism, love, patience, kindness, and long-suffering affect our health as well as the health of others, and likely in a dose-dependent fashion.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is impressing you to examine your heart. Are you a zealous, faithful person (and a health advocate, too) who is loving and altruistic? Or, are you mean and judgmental? Interestingly enough, in one study, the predictors of being altruistic included:

  • more prayer activities
  • a higher satisfaction with prayer life
  • engagement in positive religious coping
  • being a woman

As science points out, altruistic love starts with a personal prayer life. By beholding Him, we are changed to become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Then, “that heart through which He diffuses His peace and joy, and the blessed fruits of His love, becomes His temple and His throne.”4

Published in Mosaic newsletter, 2020 Q1&2, Spring issue


1 K. Eskine, “Wholesome Foods and Wholesome Morals? Organic Foods Reduce Prosocial Behavior and Harshen Moral Judgments,” in Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2012. doi:10.1177/1948550612447114.

2 C. Schwartz, “Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors Are Associated with Better Mental Health,” in Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003, vol. 65(5): 778-785; and “Helping Others Shows Differential Benefits on Health and Well-Being for Male and Female Teens,” in Journal of Happiness Studies, 2009, vol. 10(4): 431-448.

3 Schwartz, “Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors,” 778-785.

4 Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, 96.