Why do we have “negative” emotions?

18 01 2010

I want to say a few words about what have been typically called “negative” emotions: sadness and anger, and the purpose that they serve:

A world without anger would be a world where evil is never opposed.

We all agree, I think, that there is Badness in this world.  There are things that simply should not be, and should never have been: Death, illness, crime, cheating, murder, lying, etc.  And, for reasons that are very difficult to understand, God has chosen to allow these things to go on existing for a time.  God could immediately punish each instance of badness so that it wouldn’t continue.  But he doesn’t do this.  Badness is perpetrated by humans in this world (and caused by nature); and God – apparently – does nothing about it.

I believe God has given us a glimpse into his reasons for this: “In his forebearance, he left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26)

So, though God’s plan for offering us forgiveness “required” Him to temporarily leave Badness unpunished, we were not left without a strong voice in this world that witnesses to the Badness of those things.  In fact, each of us has a God-given voice inside of us that cries loudly, “This is WRONG!”  It does so through our sadness and our anger.

Love your emotions.  Be thankful for them.  Feel them.

All of this gives me a whole new perspective on my purpose in the world.  I am a man, experiencing life one moment at a time, living at a particular place and a particular time.  One of my primary jobs in this life, I believe, is simply TO FEEL.  That’s it. To allow my heart to be a witness to that which I see around me.  [Of course, there are times when our feelings must spur us on to action.  But here I am arguing that the feelings are valuable in their own right.]

Today I may celebrate a longing fulfilled in my life, while another man on the other side of town mourns the loss of a loved one.  Both of our cries rise to heaven and speak of a world that is filled with both horror and beauty every day.  Tomorrow our roles may be reversed, and it will then be my job to give full voice to my grief, that it may speak clearly of all that is wrong with the world in its present state.

Just as the dead Saints in the book of Revelation stand under the altar of God, crying out, “How long, Sovereign Lord?”, we are called to long and to cry.

All of this leads me not to hate my so-called “negative” emotions, but to be thankful for them.  (So maybe we should stop calling them “negative”, hm?)  How horrible it would be to live in a world that was simply evil, with no emotional voice to call it evil!  When we resist and stuff down these emotions, we attempt to drown out the voice in this world that acknowledges all that is wrong.  And in the long run, we also destroy our ability to rejoice when that which is wrong is made right.

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2 responses

19 01 2010
Mikey Filicicchia

I really loved this post, Tim! Super helpful stuff for me to think about.

22 01 2010

“One of my primary jobs in this life, I believe, is simply TO FEEL. That’s it. To allow my heart to be a witness to that which I see around me.”

mmm . . . so good and encouraging when, sometimes, I feel as though that’s all I can do. It’s nice to know that it’s valuable, that it reflects the heart of God, and that, sometimes, it’s enough.

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