For many of us, emotions run our lives. None of us can stop the emotion from happening. And there’s a few of us who don’t even think about how we react. Our emotions can get us into trouble and most of them can’t be trusted.
Emotions make and break relationships. At some point, because of emotions we fall in love or begin a friendship. In that same token, if people believe falling in love is the only criteria for marriage, divorce can happen when they fall out of love.
We’ve been discussing the biblical mind and what all is included when the Bible talks about our heart and mind. In this post we are going to look at how our emotions play a role in our thinking and decision making process.
Thoughts and Feelings
One of my favorite TV shows, Star Trek, has an alien named Spock. He is a Vulcan, completely devoted to shutting out all emotions and not reacting on them. He’s half human, so he has emotions even more than other Vulcans. But he does his best to repress them.
But we are not Vulcans. And the Bible doesn’t intend for us to be Vulcans. It includes our emotions in our thought process, the thoughts we have, and our feelings. As much as we like to tear systems apart in our sciences and figure out how each component contributes to the system, human beings aren’t built that way.
Sure, you could take all of the members that make up our bodies and see the relationships in each of the bodily systems. But when it comes to the brain, the mind, and emotions, it’s way different. No one can take a component or two away and figure out each part, then work up to the whole system.
Emotions are particularly tricky because they are not only based on our thoughts and intentions, the ways that others react to what we do or say, but include our background, cultural norms, thought processes, social expectations, and probably more I can’t even think of.
When I took a psychology class in seminary, the books and the professor said that our feelings are based on our thinking. This is mostly true, except for everything I pointed out above. The fact is that science can never fully explain the emotions we have and the ways we react.
Some people have a very high social IQ while others are like Sheldon from the Big Bang theory sitcom. They have no idea what you are feeling no matter how many facial and the social clues you give them.
The way we think includes our background and all of the other things I’ve mentioned. And once we go through the process of thinking, emotions come along with it. That’s why the Bible includes the heart and mind together.
We often say that the seat of our emotions is in our heart, and we reason and think with our mind. But we can’t separate one from the other. When a person makes a decision to move, the way they feel about the place is as much a factor as the cold hard facts and bottom-line of the new move (Yes, I’ve been watching way too much HGTV as well).
So instead of trying to hide our emotions in our reasoning, we need to accept the fact that we think and feel at the same time before we make our choices. As usual, the Bible is not unfamiliar with the makeup of human beings. The Hebrew culture got this right by including the heart and mind together, and the Bible reflects that.
In my opinion, the number one influencer of our emotions is our relationships with other people. The way other people react to what we say and do plays a big part not only in current decisions, but in future thinking and decisions.
When we get a positive response, our brain is trained to enjoy that response and try to repeat it. If we think that we, our emotions come right along with it. When we don’t make a favorable decision, we figure out what went wrong and try not to do it again.
There’s a lot of science in training your brain. People try to figure out how to get the brain to think the way they want so they get the responses and actions they want. Habit tracking is becoming a big business.
Self-help books fly off the shelf, especially the ones that promise they can change your life and habits in months or even a year or two. And our emotions come along for the ride. They are often the result of our thought process.
Our background and culture influence our thinking more than we can imagine. We learn from a young age what’s expected of us. The brain works the same way. It looks for ways to please others and receive a positive result. But it shuns negative experiences.
If we learn to talk and think a certain way in our culture, we carry that with us wherever we go. Even in a new environment, old habits and backgrounds are hard to break. The brain is adaptive and may be able to change those background and cultural settings eventually, but it’s going to take a while.
Everyone has emotions. We can’t avoid them. We can’t shut them off or form habits that keep us from experiencing emotions. God didn’t make us to be mindless drones or people who only use reason. He created us like him, so we have emotions as he does.
The Bible doesn’t tell us not to feel. It gives us wisdom on how to react to those feelings. In my next post I will address the volatile emotions God and we have from time to time. We can use our emotions in positive and God honoring ways.
A Genuine Approach
Since we can’t turn our emotions off or hide them, we need to deal with them in a genuine and biblical way. Embarrassment, overreaction, and a host of other problems can result in our relationships and social lives if we don’t find this approach.
One of the ways I try to deal with my emotions before they get the best of me is to take them before God. In my prayer time, I have no problem telling God how I feel about something. He has broad shoulders and I let him take the brunt of my emotions before I react to my social situations.
When it’s in the moment and I don’t have time to go before the Lord, a quick prayer helps me to take a moment before I react. I have heard of some solutions where people count to 10 or think about something else before they react. I prefer prayer because I can quickly talk to God about the situation. Even if it’s just in my thoughts without speaking, it helps.
Often times as a minister, I am asked about bringing our emotions before God. Many people try to pray prayers that don’t include any emotional responses. But this isn’t the way the Bible, does it. Just read a couple of David’s psalms. He lets loose before God regularly in his prayer time.
God already knows how we are feeling. If we try to hide it from him or don’t address it, it doesn’t do us any good. He is there ready to listen to us. One of the reasons relationship with him is so important is because it allows us to address how we feel about issues.
Instead of exposing yourself to awkward or detrimental social situations, put your emotions before God first. How much different is that from sharing your plans with him? When I start my prayer time and can’t get an event or task out of my mind, I talk to God about it first. I get it out of the way so I can focus on the rest of my prayer time.
When you go before God, especially if you have been offended by someone else, you can’t keep those emotions from surfacing. Why not let them surface? Let God talk to you about it.
After all, you can’t pray for your enemies and those who offend you until you address the emotional impact of their offense. You can’t pray blessing over an enemy until you forgive. So don’t hide your emotions from God and be genuine in his presence. He can handle it better than you can.
When you interact with others, you are going to have emotions. Some of them are good; some of them are bad. Some of them are desirable and others are not. But all of them can be sifted through prayer before you react.
We can’t stop thinking or feeling. But we can realize that our feelings are attached to our thoughts and decisions. Acknowledging this helps us to make the best decisions for everyone involved. Instead of trying to cut ourselves up into pieces over decisions, we allow our whole person to make the decision.
Leave a comment and tell me how you make decisions. Do you allow your emotions to get the best of you or are you cool, calm and collected? Do you need to use your emotions along with your reasoning?