Why y’all hatin’? (part 1)

2 01 2010

Well, I took a little blogging break for the holidays, but I’m back!

Have you noticed what people say?

Stop hatin' on your emotions, Christians!

One thing I’ve noticed is that Christians don’t usually like their emotions.  Spend enough time around a group of Christians, and you’ll hear a lot more negative statements than positive ones about emotions: “You can’t trust emotions.”/ “Emotions lead us astray.”/ ” Our hearts are fallen and deceitful.”/  “Feelings tempt us toward sin.”/ “You cannot do life by your feelings!!!!!

I actually just returned from Ignite, GCM’s bi-annual national conference.  It was a great.  I got to connect with some friends from around the country, enjoyed the incredible times of worship, and got to hear some teachers share some beautiful things about God.  I felt all kinds of goodness, and several kinds of difficult emotions as well over the course of those few days.  Ah… EMOTIONS!  I love them!

But over the past couple of days, I did hear a few of these statements that communicate a bit of an anti-emotions bent.  Though there were tons of wonderful things shared at the conference, as a counselor and purveyor of theology about emotions, these statements peppered throughout the conference got under my skin!

Don’t get me wrong: There is truth in those statements.  Simply following the first impulse of your emotions all day every day would indeed lead to disaster.  But this is a vastly incomplete truth.  And when we focus on it too much we can do great damage.

“Deceitful above all things.”

Here is how the thinking often goes:

Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”!  This proves that our emotions are not trustworthy!  I need to overcome my “irrational” emotions by focusing on the truth; I need to fight in “the battlefield of the mind”.  I must renew my mind with the truth (Romans 12:1-2), and take captive every thought to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  By focusing on what is true, I can avoid being led astray by my deceitful emotions, and live a godly life.

Sounds good, right?  Unfortunately, this thinking is subtly flawed and can be dangerous.

If you constantly pit your heart and your mind against one another, it's no surprise if you end up "stuck in your head" and disconnected from your heart.

The premise here is that there are two parts to who we are: First, there is the “heart” (our emotions) which, according to Jeremiah 17:9 is sinful and can’t be trusted.  Second, there is the “mind”, which is ruled by logic and allows me to choose between good beliefs and bad beliefs.  As long as we purge our minds of untruth, our minds will lead our emotions along the path of godliness.

Ask yourself: Do you agree with that?  Do you believe that as long as you renew your mind with the truth, you’ll be ok?

You may be surprised to find that this is NOT what the Bible teaches!  Renewing the mind is very important, but there’s a lot more to the story.  — And I’ll tell you more about it in my next post. (To be continued…)

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3 responses

2 01 2010
Jon Shah

you seem to have put this forth as an either/or argument. why is that necessary?

Do Christians really hate their emotions? some probably do, but the speakers I heard (and know) would probably not see this as accurate. This is what I tend to hear….

our society has trained to live as slaves to our emotions. (maybe every society does this, but ours is quite a proponent of this way of thinking) In fact, this society has taught us that our emotions are the most important thing. your life is oriented around you and how you feel.

However, God has said something different. We are to followers of Him. We are called to be men and women who walk in truth and in the power of the Spirit. (heart, mind, soul, strength) This re-orientation of life is a indescribably difficult thing. often our emotions help us to see where we are not walking in faith or truth. they are valuable outward indicators of what’s going on in our heart, which is vitally important. they help us realize our need to fight the lies (wrong messages) which we have believed or clung to. They push us to go to God for help…..help me believe! change my heart….give me yours….cuz something is not right.

the main premise of this line of thinking is pay attention. there is a battle going on and its time to get in it. stop just going with the flow and go deeper. i have also never heard anyone say that this is the ONLY key to the Christian life. (is that a strawman?) walking in the Spirit is clearly greater than filling your mind with truth. but that part is big and largely neglected by many of us. can’t we acknowledge it is big?

shah

just so you know, i hear a lot about positive emotions in my circles. joy, thankfulness, gratitude, excitement, peace, love, contentment, passion, security, elation…..I think emotions are great, but I may not be typical, some have said I’m too emotional : )

3 01 2010
Tim Courtois

Thanks for commenting Shah!
I agree that this doesn’t have to be an either-or argument at all, as should become clear in my next few posts. The idea is that our reason and our emotions are both equally important parts of who we are, both are gifts from God, and both equally damaged by the fall.
I think you and I have different experiences of what society teaches: In my experience, people are more often afraid of their emotions, and I see a lot of devaluation of emotions going on.
I can see that in certain circles emotions are given free reign. In general though, I think we still live in a society where, more often than not, an allegiance to rationality carries the day, and emotions are viewed as “base”, even primitive. And even when people do value their emotions, it rarely comes along with a HEALTHY approach to dealing with their emotions.
And specifically in the Church – which is my main audience – I think emotions are often viewed as, at best, a filter through which we can gain insight into what we truly believe (so they’re really just an arrow that points back to reason, rather than something of value in their own right).

What do the rest of you think? Does our society hate emotions? Or does it despise rationality? Or both? Or neither?

In any case, I’m totes magotes with you, Shah, on walking in step with the Spirit being more important than either emotions or rationality. In fact, I think it encompasses both.

Curious to hear your thoughts on my next few posts…

10 01 2010
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[…] would argue that a “better” map of the self (according to my recent posts) looks something like […]

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