Emotions – Are They Ruining your life?
Our emotions are an important part of how we experience the world around us. Emotions are the means by which we categorize our feelings, thus giving us the ability to articulate outwardly, what we feel inwardly. Emotions can be a beautiful part of our lives, but too often they become an impediment to good decisions. Unchecked reactions can lead us to a life dictated by our emotions, rather than by God’s plan.
Emotions are generated in more ways than are possible to be named. Typically, there is a catalyst or a trigger, that when encountered creates a corresponding emotion. These triggers can come in many forms, ranging from thoughts about people, watching a beautiful sunset, memories (good or bad) or having someone cut you off in traffic. Almost anything can act as a catalyst to spark an emotion. Likewise, a different encounter, can shift emotions. You can go from a happy to see your child, to mad when you see your ex is with him. Emotions move at the speed of thought, and can change in a matter of moments. Although the triggers that generate emotions may be different, each emotion has to first be processed internally before there is an external manifestation of that feeling.
During the internal processing of our emotions we typically assign them to one of two places: our heart or our head.
The heart serves as the reservoir for our emotions sorting and storing them within specific categories for future reference. Emotions rest in the heart so we can call upon this categorization at a later date. This allows us to group together similar experiences and assign the corresponding emotion. For example, imagine a co-worker giving you a compliment. She says “You did a great job on that project”. During your internal processing you determine her comment is positive and assign it to the emotion category of “happiness”. That emotion is then stored in your heart for categorization and further reference. In future instances when you are given a compliment, you will most likely access the previous categorization of “happiness” and assign this new experience the same emotion.
The head takes emotions, and uses them as part of the decision making process. If the emotion is positive, such as happiness or excitement, we are more likely to respond to the catalyst for the emotion positively. If the emotion is negative, such as fear or anger, we tend to respond negatively to the catalyst.
Problems can arise when we assign all emotions to our head and allow them to be the driving force behind the decisions that we make for our lives.
We cannot allow something as changeable as emotions to dictate how we make decisions. Proverbs 29:11 tells us:
“A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.
Yes, emotion can be used as a part of the decision making process but, in no way should it ever be the sole reason for making a decision. We live and operate in a world that constantly bombards us with catalyst, thus we are continually processing and categorizing experiences. Although this is onslaught of triggers is constant, we must never give emotions free reign and “vent all of our feelings”. Even though everything in culture tells us differently, as followers of Christ we must be willing to put aside our own feelings and submit to God’s plan for our lives. Sometimes this may mean setting aside our emotions and following God’s direction in any given situation. Though this may seem difficult, we do not have to undertake this alone. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Jesus Christ, having lived in this world as both Man and God, understands our struggles and can “sympathize with our weaknesses”. We can appeal to Him, and plead for help. He helps us to resist our emotions and follow His plan. By submitting our will to God rather than to our arbitrary emotions, we have the ability to take control back from our carnal nature and place it in the hands of our savior Jesus Christ so that “we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.
In part 2 of this series we will discuss how we can take back control from our carnal nature and live a life that is led by the Spirit and not by our emotions.
Renatha E. Lollis is the Director of Operations for Destiny Institute, a Christian advocacy non-profit primarily focused on promoting the importance of adopting a Biblical worldview within the Christian Church. She is a wife, Bible teacher and conference speaker. To contact Renatha, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.