Rights, Privileges, and Health

A lot of people want to lose weight or get healthier because they want to reduce the amount of resistance or limitations in their lives.  They imagine some future imaginary end point where a certain weight and a certain health goal will fix some major issues in their life.   Resistance in general, which I have spoken about before, is a necessary component of growth.   It is also how we interact with the world around us.   It is the resistance of the clay against the potters hands, it is the tossing and turning of the ocean, that creates the beauty of the driftwood and the examples go on and on.  In our lives when we focus on a direction and are not staking everything on a specific outcome then we can maneuver and adapt as natural resistance comes and it always comes in some fashion.  Here’s the good news, the resultant creation or endpoint is often unexpected and often more beautiful.  

Many of us, however, mistake our health as a right and not a privilege.   One definition that appeals to me personally is the definition by Dr. Robert Rhondell Gibson.  He states that a right is something that you earned a right to and can’t be taken away from you.  So, since health, even life, can be taken away from you with right poison or a weapon, it is distinctly a privilege.  So as he says “Maybe the greatest way to lose your privileges is to mistake them for rights.”  

So, coming back to health, we have certain things about our lives that are privileges.  And in this is tied up the notion of gratitude.   For example, there is no question that the ability to walk is a privilege.   What I am saying really is that when you realize it is a privilege, then you would naturally expend every effort to maintain, enhance, and maybe gain more.   This is really the difference between greed and gratitude.  Greed wants more, better, and different from something that one has taken for granted.   Gratitude says that I see what I have as a wonderful privilege and I want to protect, enhance, and grow.  

Let’s take an example.  Walking : what a privilege.  How do you maintain, enhance, and gain more of that privilege?  You walk!  You stretch! You practice your balance, flexibility, and endurance! You condition your body and in so doing you are expressing gratitude for the gift that is walking.   Cooking!  What a privilege!  How do you maintain, enhance, and gain more?  You use it for your health so that you can continue doing it!   So what I am suggesting is that we start realizing that most of the good things in our life are not rights, they are privileges.  When it comes to health, we can start with where we are – if its walking or our ability to learn to cook better, or its our ability to choose healthier options in our food so that as I have said, we can expand, enhance, and gain more of that privilege if we wish to.  Take a look at your health and your health goals, you are already a very privileged human being I would venture to guess, all I am saying is perhaps we start spending time thinking about that and making an effort to secure your privileges.

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Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.