Health is NOT a Virtue

I think it is safe to say that my most popular posts since I began writing were the series I put together about what health stigma and healthy privilege are–and how seriously they affect us.  I still stand by the ideas I shared in that series.  Recently, as I have talked to clients, and I have participated in conversations online, I have realized that there is an issue that is directly linked to healthy privilege and health stigma that I didn’t explicitly address in my earlier posts.  And it is this:

Having the privilege of health is not reflective of your virtue as a person or the value of your choices.

Let me be clear about this.  I certainly believe that we have the ability to make healthy choices.  We can strive for good food, rest, and movement.  We can choose relationships that support us instead of relationships that tear us down.  We can seek appropriate physical and mental health care to be sure that we stay as healthy as possible.  We can make healthy choices.  But those healthy choices do not guarantee our health.

We live in a culture that is very focused on individual control.  We want to believe that good choices lead to good outcomes.  And that means that if you struggle with health challenges–emotional or physical–you must not have made good health choices.  Right?

WRONG.

This unspoken idea that good health is a reward for healthy choices is one of the pillars that supports the ongoing stigma of health challenges.  The belief that good health is the result of good choices is a reason that so many people feel blamed or shamed for the illnesses they live through.

The truth is, that no one is guaranteed good health.  Athletes in peak condition die of undetected heart conditions. People who have eaten perfectly their whole lives get cancer.  People with great mental attitudes struggle with depression or anxiety. People with strong work ethics get multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis.  Making healthy choices certainly improves our odds of experiencing health in life.  But we don’t get a guarantee.

We would like a guarantee.  We want to feel that good is rewarded.  We want to believe that our choices ultimately control our experiences.  But we live in a world where our genes, our environment, and sometimes, just our spin of the luck wheel determine our experience.  And I think that our society sometimes takes that wish for a guarantee and uses it to shame and blame people who are facing health challenges.  Because if other people can make healthy choices and still face illness, then we might be at risk for illness too.  Because we want to deny the fact that sometimes good health is good luck.

Since this lightbulb went on, I have seen this attitude in so many places.  And I think that we need to call it out.  Health is a goal.  It is a gift.  But health is not a virtue.  

Let’s have that conversation.

Oh–and just to have some outside perspective, check out this long list of “Virtues of Moral Personhood (note that health isn’t on there anywhere):”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

davidwcovington.com

Beyond Behavioral Health

hcldr

Healthcare Leadership Blog

Figuring. Shit. Out.

life seems to dish it out. i seem to write about it.

wellfesto

hacking health, designing life

Just Talking Podcast

A free-flowing conversation with purpose. There's no pressure, we're Just Talking

A Consequence of Hypoglycemia.

What good is an incurable disease if you can’t share it with the rest of the world.

inDpendence

Sometimes Diabetes Takes Center Stage

regrounding

of chemo, cancer and facing life head-on

Dr Catherine Rose

Inspiring Hope

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one.

Ann Becker-Schutte, Ph.D.

Help at the Intersection of Physical and Emotional Health

eatbreatherun

Eating, Running & Fighting Against Lung Cancer

Is it Possible?

Making it Possible in 10 steps or less!

Warm Southern Breeze

"... there is no such thing as nothing."

health communication source

curating the people & organizations that make health com happen

The Musings of a Cancer Research Advocate

It's All About the Evidence...

shadow7788

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Tonya Miles, PsyD

Mental Health Matters

The Pollock Group

Professional Psychology Services

Voice in Recovery (ViR)™

Prevention, Advocacy, Intervention, Recovery (PAIR)™

%d bloggers like this: