1. The Traditional Assessment of Wellness (TAW)
The TAW is a revision of an established wellness test in use for 40 years, a true-false test called the Character Assessment Scale (CAS), sold all over the world as a test for moral character. Its validating research has been honored twice by the American Psychological Association. Those studies showed that people with Judeo-Christian lifestyles and attitudes had better physical and mental health. The TAW now uses these age-old moral concepts as a model for wellness. The best performing items from the CAS have been adapted to a new 1-to-7-scale format, and new items address more current issues. The first free online administration of the TAW in 2018 developed problems with its server. We are now looking for technical expertise to upload the 90 test questions, the 14 demographic questions, and 47 scale scoring protocols to a new platform and scoring service. MUCH more information about the TAW is available on its own tab at the top of this website.
2. Science and philosophy have established no clear definition or model
A thorough historical review of theory and research on wellness has been done by Peterson and Seligman in their 2004 book, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. As Peterson and Seligman had done, Michael Bishop’s 2015 book The Good Life: Unifying the Philosophy and Psychology of Well-Being reviewed over 200 wellness resources. Both reviews found nothing coming close to agreement in the literature of philosophy or psychology about how to define or measure wellness. In a more recent international review of wellness literature (86 references cited in October 2019), Matthew Fisher in Australia came to the same conclusion. Both Fisher and Bishop recommended that theory and research develop a network of causally related and behaviorally measurable traits, and that is just what the TAW has done.
Our model of wellbeing attempts to see wellness the way God does – as a natural byproduct of trusting and obeying Him. God sees us as He made us, as souls being asked to take care of themselves and others. Our model helps souls become more godly, more able to see ourselves and others as children of God, created to serve Him and take care of each other. Sickness is seen as going our own way, walking in the flesh/ego, abiding in bondage to bad habits, seeking and sharing fruits of the flesh (from the left side of the model’s outline). These fruits rot and corrode us, so that we leak out the nutrition from the fruits we take in. Illness comes from a natural, self-centered, emptiness mindset. It produces lifestyles where the more we get, the more we seem to want. And the more we give, the less we seem to have. On the other hand, wellness is seeing and treating ourselves from a supernatural, God-centered, fullness mindset. It is living as if there seems to be a wellspring of well-being inside, such that the more we give away fruits of the spirit (from the right side of the outline), the more we have to give.
3. The Bible had originally given us the model we use
The definition and model for wellness used in the TAW is based on age-old summaries of what’s taught in the Bible for wellness. A little under 4000 years ago, God’s covenant to Abraham promised simply that his descendants would be “blessed to be a blessing” to the whole world (Gen. 12: 1-3). About 500 years later, the Ten Commandments were given to us through Moses (Deut. 5), who told us that following these commands would enable us to “enjoy long life” (6:2), “so that it may go well with you” (6: 3,18), and “so that we may always prosper and be kept alive” (6:24, NIV). About 500 years after Moses, the wise King Solomon explained that his book of Proverbs “was written down so we’ll know how to live well and right” (Pr 1:2, the Message). When Jesus began his teachings with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), he explained at the outset he was teaching us how to be blessed (5:1-12). At the end of the sermon, he taught that these guidelines were being given to make our hearts healthy so they would bear good, long-lasting fruit (7:15-27). A few decades later, the Apostle Paul listed many of these sick and healthy fruits of the flesh and spirit, in Gal 5: 19-23.
Our nine pairs of good/healthy and bad/sickening fruits the Bible teaches us about were all taught by Solomon, the Lord Jesus, and then the Apostle Paul. Passages from each source are included in the devotional study guides for each of the nine issues. The first set of three issues above deals with Jesus’ first great commandment, and Moses’ first four. The last two sets of three issues deal with Jesus’ second great commandment, and Moses’ last six. In 590 A.D., Pope Gregory catalogued the last seven of these nine sickening attitudes into “the seven deadly sins.” Until the time of Freud and the marketing of the medical model, these traits and their positive healthy counterpart “virtues” were always among the most widely discussed topics in Western society, commonly understood to cause illness and wellness. These concepts have remained our best guide through the years to find wellness and avoid illness.
4. Science has now begun to validate this model of wellness
The Traditional Assessment of Wellness (TAW) is a revision of an older test I wrote, which has been backed up by three decades of research. Under the supervision of a former American Psychological Association president at the University of Minnesota, Dr. William Backus constructed a personality test to measure seven unhealthy traits (the deadly sins). He called it the Sinful Attitudes Inventory, and he found many statistically significant correlations between these sinful traits and mental health: sinful people were a lot more likely to be crazy, and vice-versa. He decided not to publish his test because of its religious intonations, but he encouraged and assisted me in constructing another test, the Character Assessment Scale (CAS).
The CAS was published in 1981, measuring eight of the nine pairs of traits the TAW looks at. It was normed on people from all 50 states and all seven Canadian provinces. The foundational research for the CAS was published by the American Psychological Association, and once again, moral character/ wellness was significantly correlated with holistic health, and with various interesting demographics.
The best-performing items of the CAS were kept for the TAW, the ones most consistent with the other items measuring the same things. I added new items and the new dimension of security, fear vs. faith. After giving this test online in 2018 to some of my clients and friends, communication with the hosting service in Europe was inadequate to allow me to make changes. So I took it offline, and I am now seeking help to upload the test to a new platform and scoring service.
5. Would many people want to use the TAW? Would it appeal to any groups?
Market Analysis: Of the tests that measure several dimensions of wellness, most are proprietary, to profit the businesses that created the test. None of them measures strengths and weaknesses, or covers even half the issues of the TAW. Only the TAW offers percentiles based on the entire normative sample, and comparisons with the local sample through which their scores were submitted, all corrected for social desirability (the effort to present oneself in a favorable light).
Of the few free, anonymous, online tests, none measures even a third of the issues this tests examines. The VIA Character Institute offers an excellent, free, anonymous test of 24 character strengths, with immediate feedback on the rank-ordering of your strengths. They include measures of Honesty, Humility, and significant pieces of the TAW’s traits of Compassion, Courage, Peacemaking, and Enthusiasm. They have excellent teaching, training, and personal growth resources available for a fee, plus a variety of more extensive test reports, also for a fee. The test doesn’t measure illness, or anything that would undermine character or wellness.
By far the best competition for the TAW is from the National Wellness Institute, at testwell.org, clearly a profit-minded nonprofit. It is based on a six-dimensional theory about wellness, but the theory doesn’t generate cause-and-effect insights, or remedial solutions. Individual memberships cost $100; groups can join for $300, and “health professionals and wellness administrators” can become certified for $500. Their annual summer wellness conference looks good, and costs $350 for online participation. Feedback on the free online test gives just a raw score for each of the six dimensions, and no comparisons with population norms. One of the dimensions is spiritual, but it is not at all Biblical. It doesn’t touch the moral or the motivational issues the TAW covers.
Businesses and Schools Any size business may want the reduced health-care costs and increased productivity of becoming a healthier place to work. We may issue WELL Workplace commendations and certifications for those who have demonstrated exceptional scores, or creative programs. Given the free nature of this program and the widespread need for outcome-based programs, our services and products should appeal to the HR directors of large and mid-size corporations, plus the small independent Christian business owner. Through our Creative Commons Copyright, both educational and business partners can use their own portals for presenting the TAW, as long as their studies are shared with WELL, and their administration of the test is still free, online, and anonymous.
The TAW would certainly appeal to Christian schools, from high school on up. Without front-end costs or training, any college could quickly generate publishable studies for their students, because all data from research with the TAW will be shared with them openly at openresearch.org. If all faculty or students were required to take the test each year (again, at no cost to the school), their department or school could gain recruiting advantages by advertising the proven and growing wellness of their faculty, student body, and culture of campus life.
One Christian school will serve as our primary research partner, for validating and revising the test. Asbury University and Seminary will probably be the first one asked. University faculty who oversee these technical upgrades for the TAW will be honored and appreciated by receiving authorship of research studies, and co-authorship of the test itself. The faculty would hopefully partner with the board in writing new questions for the TAW, and even making new scales to measure new wellness traits which the test doesn’t yet address. Nothing is considered magical or final about the number nine here. Both the wellness model and the TAW itself are open to addressing other soul foods, resources such as tribe (division vs. cooperation?), nature (consuming vs. caretaking?), and technology (sickening vs. healthy?).
6. What needs to be done now, by a board, volunteers, and paid professionals?
WELL now has all the legal nonprofit structures and the financial assets in place to assemble a team for its mission. The TAW will be taken through the website to-the-well.org, which will direct interested users to a host of wellness resources. Currently, we need volunteers and paid professionals with experience, skills, and knowledge in:
- web-mastering to-the-well.org with WordPress and hosting it through Network Solutions,
- uploading test/survey items and their scoring protocols to the GPL3 platform,
- using its PSPP software to score a test and streamline its feedback experience,
- constructing and validating a personality test,
- communicating within the research community,
- fund-raising and grantsmanship,
- scholarship in Biblical exegesis and church history,
- managing traditional and social media, and
- building a nonprofit corporation into a healthy community.
We will soon start assembling a board of directors, to oversee THREE TASK FORCES comprised of board members, paid professionals, and volunteers: Testing and Research (to streamline the presentation and scoring of the TAW, to establish its construct and criterion validities, revise its statistically weaker items, and to publish the findings from its data), Website Development (to make it interactive, educational, attractive, and popular), and Publicity and Fund-raising (grantsmanship, traditional/social media, donor relations).
Board members will be part of a community of people who all share mature Christian faith embodied in living healthy lives, bearing good spiritual fruit. They may be paid for their services and products, which can also be featured/recommended on the website. They will have the rich reward of co-creating experiences that will leave the world a much better place. They will be able to learn about wellness as they review and curate resources for the website. Liability insurance will be provided (in the event our published findings should offend anyone).
Then in the next phase we’ll be
- Performing research with the data that will compare our findings to the results of previous studies, generate articles in professional journals and mainstream periodicals, and fulfill the purposes of WELL above (including before and after studies showing how taking the TAW with feedback affects health), and
- Organizational networking to make professional organizations (counselors, life coaches, pastors) and institutions (businesses, schools, denominations, churches) aware of how they can benefit from using the TAW, plus our website and research.
Later, in Phase 3, WELL will be
- discovering groups, lifestyles, and mindsets which show more or less holistic health and illness,
- publishing our findings in professional journals, conventions, and traditional media,
- planning educational and media events to promote the experience of wellness,
- teaching professionals (therapists, pastoral counselors, life coaches) how to use the TAW,
- seeking business, nonprofit, and university partners in wellness promotion & research, and
- conducting other research to fulfill the purposes of WELL given above, to the glory of God.