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Over the years, individuals and communities have considered three definitions of health. First, they perceive health as both subjective and objective concept and its extension beyond the physical realm. Secondly, the definition involves maintenance and improvement of health. The final definition considers the essence of health to human life. The purpose of this essay is to contrast the professional definition of health and illness. It justifies that these definitions are symptoms of spirituality. My definition of health therefore, is the spiritual well-being of an individual or a community whereas illness is the physical outcome or the manifestation of the spiritual poor being of the community or an individual
Definition of Health and Illness
While scholars have focused on the physical domain of health and illness, it is still a puzzle among the societies, which esteem the religious definition of health and illness. Although several studies have established the relationship between spirituality and health, scholars have not yet provided a conclusive definition of health and illness. Spirituality defines the inner soul and the inherent nature of the human beings. According to Hart (1988), the well-being of a community depends on the behavior of the individuals in that community (p.123). Adherence to the taboos of religion results into a healthy community.
Biblically, people should heed and adhere to the will of God if at all their health is to remain ill free. World Health Organization defines “health as the state of well-being in which the physical, social, and mental functioning of an individual or community is in its normal order” (Clare, 2002, p.39). According to specialists, absence of infirmity in the body of an individual is the absolute definition of health. When the individuals do not attain these conditions, professionals consider them ill.
Scholars argue that people’s spiritual judgment hinges on their deeds and therefore, they have to differentiate between the good and bad as defined by their religion. The choice between right and wrong is the ultimate determinant of the health of the community. If people’s choice is to do right for instance, then God blesses them and keeps them off the wrath. If the deeds are against the taboo of the religion, God imposes a divine punishment unto them. This punishment may be a form of sickness. The result of the punishment therefore is physical diseases, which professionals fight to combat. As per the Biblical context, illness is the state of lack of harmony between God and humankind. Biblically, whenever human beings infringed the will of God, the result would be physical, mental, or social illness.
As presented in the above discussion, harmony between God and human beings characterizes health. The physical nature of human beings depends on their spirituality. As per biblical context, human can preserve their spirituality if only they maintain good relationship with God. Jeremiah (30:17) states that “but I will restore you to health and heal your wounds” (Humphrey, 2002, p.260). Human beings are healthy only if they are in harmony with God. If however, the human spirituality is not well, as per the God’s will, then illness will haunt the community. Illness is the nature of spiritual transgression. Diseases, which professionals describe as illness, are the physical manifestation of the divine punishment to the human beings because of their violation of the religious taboos.
That is, moral and physical health is dependent on the spirituality and if the spirituality is not preserved, illness, which doctors and nurses diagnose based on the physical and moral symptoms occurs. The role of nurses is to provide care and love to the ill. Care and love are components of spirituality, which guide human kind in comprehension for the need of life. It is through their spiritual well-being that the nurses are able to provide the necessary care to the sick in the society. Indeed, “Spirituality is an important aspect in nursing practice” (Clare, 2006, p.145). The health of the society therefore depends on the spirituality of the nurses. Adoption of faith and religion in the nursing practice will consequently improve the health of the society since nurses will incorporate spirituality components, love, and care into the nursing practice.
The world views health as just the absence of diseases. This view is likely to affect the definition presented in this essay in varied aspects. It is imperative to acknowledge the significant attachment, which human beings have to the physical and moral nature of their environment. This connotes that the definition of health being the physical and moral well-being of the society will supersede the definition presented in this essay (Hart, 1988, p. 23). Again, the focus on the improvement of health is more physical-centered than spiritual since humans perceive spirituality as a complicated subject; in fact, some do not believe in it. In the light of these revelations, spirituality therefore is the basis of health of a community and in order to avoid illness, the society should focus on its spiritual preservation.
Separation of health from spirituality is impossible since faith is the guiding principle for care and love among nurses, their spiritual well-being is very significant for the health of the community. Indeed, it is the inherent component of the being of the human nature. Therefore, it is justifiable that health is the spiritual well-being of the society. If the spirituality is not well, physical and moral health of the community consequently deteriorates justifying the assertion that, illness is the spiritual poor being of the society; this definition underscores my definition of health and illness. A person’s worldview will affect this definition depending on one’s religious perspective.
Clare, W. (2006). Treading Lightly: Spirituality Issues in Mental Health Nursing. International Journal of Mental Health, 15, 144-152.
Hart, L. (1998). Biological basis of the behavior of sick animals. Neurosci: Biobehav, 12, 123-126.
Humphrey, N. (2002). Great Expectations: The Evolutionary Psychology of Faith- Healing and the Placebo Effect, in the Mind Made Flesh, 255-285. Oxford: Oxford University Press.