By Dale Peterson, MD – Building Health

“That’s childish!”

What do those words mean to you? Read them again, aloud.


How did you react? Did your voice drop in an expression of distaste or disgust or did it rise to express appreciation and delight? I must admit that for most of my life those words elicited a feeling of shame or conveyed a sense of inappropriate behavior, a reaction that does not promote health and vitality.


What does it really mean to be childish? Does it mean that you are engaging in unbecoming behavior or does it mean something entirely different? I’ve come to believe that each of us would be happier, healthier, and wiser if we allowed ourselves to be childish on a regular basis.

I’m not the first to come to this conclusion. Another physician, Luke, relates in his gospel an episode when Jesus’ disciples attempted to discourage people from bringing their children to Him. Jesus called the disciples aside and told them, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never prevent their coming. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these. I tell you, the man who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Jesus told them, “If you’d like to be a citizen of my kingdom you’re going to have to be willing to be childish!”


What’s so important about being childish? Think back, if you can, to when you were three years old – to your earliest memories. The world was constantly new, each and every day was an adventure, and the simplest object was a source of wonder and joy. I watched a boy of that age at a Fourth of July fireworks display several years ago. Every burst of color brought oohs, ahs, and giggles of delight as he jumped up and down in celebration.


My four year-old granddaughter is vitality personified. She lives life non-stop, full-throttle, and no-holds-barred. While she doesn’t verbalize it, I’m certain the philosophy that governs her life is “What can I learn next?”


Think back to when you were four years old. When someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up how did you respond? Did you pause, analyze the pros and cons of each career, count the financial and time commitment required to enter that field, and ask yourself if your choice was realistic? My guess is that limitations of money, time, and effort didn't even enter your mind. Anything was possible. One week you planned to be a cowboy or cowgirl, the next week a doctor, or teacher, or a baseball player. Life was never mundane; it was a constantly changing kaleidoscope of Technicolor possibilities.


I believe that this is how we are meant to approach live each and every day. We are not on this earth to simply go through the motions of living. We are not called to live ordinary lives; they are to be extraordinary. Why should we be content to crawl, when we have the ability to soar?


I am committed to being more childish in the time I have left on earth. I challenge you to do the same. Strive to look at the things around you with the wonder of seeing them for the first time. Give yourself permission to ooh, ah, and dance in delight of simple pleasures. Look for the adventure in each day.


I also urge you to periodically ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Cast aside the constraints of time, money and effort and explore the possibilities. If you discover a path that arouses passion within you, give yourself permission to explore it, for happiness and contentment are more often found in the pursuit of a worthy ideal than in its attainment.


Perhaps I’m entering my “second childhood.” I certainly hope so. My sole regret is that I allowed my first childhood to end, and never questioned its passing. After all, the man who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.



Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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