“Emotion cannot be cut out of life . . . There are many dangers of false emotionalism, but that does not rule out true emotion and depth of feeling” (Billy Graham).
LIKE ALL OF OUR OTHER ENDOWMENTS, OUR EMOTIONS ARE THINGS WE CAN EITHER PAY TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO OR TOO LITTLE. Wisely managed, our emotions can be a powerful ally, but when we give them either too much or too little space, harmful results usually follow. The challenge is to steer a middle course.
These days, when emotional experience tends to trump all other considerations, one thing we need to acknowledge is that our emotions are poor managers of our lives. How we feel flows quite naturally from how we think, and our feelings can be a wonderful support for our thinking, but feelings alone can never tell us right from wrong. They shouldn’t be allowed to occupy the driver’s seat of our lives; that place should be reserved for our conscience. As Robert Benson said, “Emotions should be servants, not masters — or at least not tyrants.”
Most of us would do well to allow ourselves a wider range of emotions. In particular, I believe we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to get rid of the so-called “painful” emotions. All of our emotions have their place and should be given a chance to enhance our lives and help us. “The experience of the whole gamut of emotions is a part of the human condition, the inheritance of every man” (John Powell).
Generally, our emotions come to us unbidden. We can’t help what we feel. What we can do is govern our intentions and our actions, and we must do that. We are responsible not for our feelings but for what we do with our feelings. And when we do what is right, our feelings will adjust themselves appropriately in due course.
Earl Riney wrote, “Our emotions are the driving powers of our lives. When we are aroused emotionally, unless we do something great and good, we are in danger of letting our emotions become perverted.” As one of the natural endowments that we’ve been given, our emotions are meant to help us. I would go so far as to say that our emotions cannot successfully be neglected or misused. If our heart is not involved in our effort to live rightly, that effort is bound to fail.
“The heart has such an influence over the understanding that it is worthwhile to engage it in our interests” (Lord Chesterfield).