Largely due to a certain holiday that took place a few days ago, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the massive emphasis that our culture places on feelings. It seems to me that we live in a drastically unbalanced society.
Of course there is also a problem with passionless intellectualism, but I’ll rant about that another time. In this post I just want to ponder about the over-emotionalism that is so prevailant these days, especially amongst my generation.
I just wonder why we as a generation are so driven by feelings. You can see it in our dating relationships, in the movies we watch, in the books we read, in the youth groups we attend, it’s everywhere. It’s incredibly disconcerting to me. Somewhere along the line it has become a good thing for people to wear their hearts on their sleaves and to make decisions based on emotions.
Often I listen to the phrases that people use when I have conversations with them and I hear them say things like: “What does your heart tell you? ” and “Just follow your heart. . .” These phrases bother me because I cannot forget Jeremiah 17:9 which claims: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” If we allow our hearts to direct us it will lead us astray. Emotions, affections, and feelings are not adequate guides for living a good life. They will lead to inconsistancy and self-delusion.
It is certain that there is a place for the heart, for if we have no passion, if we have no feelings, and no love, then we are worthless. Yet, the heart without the direction and reason of the head is a dangerous thing. Misdirected, well-intentioned passion can do a good deal more destruction than cold-hearted intellectualism. I just wonder how much better the world would be if people directed their lives through wisdom instead of emotion.
I think a lot of times this generation has a tendency to confuse reasonable discourse with hate-speech and exciting emotions with love. Thinking is not a terrible thing. More importantly: love is more than a flutter of the heart. Love does involve feelings, but it is not composed of them. I believe there would be a good deal fewer divorces if more people understood that love is not just about feelings, but involved determination, endurance, friendship, and commitment.
In my own life, I have found one truth to be unfailing: the wisest people I know are also the most loving people I know. Note, by wisdom I am not referring only to intelligence, but rather to reason, applied knowledge, and consistency. I have found that when someone is lead by wisdom they understand love more thoroughly than someone that is led by emotion. When someone determines in their mind to be patient, kind, commited, and steadfast they become loving. Whereas, if someone focuses on what makes them feel good, the person that gives them butterflies in their stomach, and whatever gives them the most excitement, they are not going to be truly loving, but will be constantly chasing after something better.
My mind turns back to a particular friend I have had that was one of the most passionate, emotion-driven people I have ever met. He impressed almost everyone that he interacted with, especially the girls. He was confident, charming, and great at smooth talk. It seemed every girl he knew was in love with him or had been at some point. I observed him and realized that it was because he knew the right words to say to connect with their emotions and to make them think that he was actually commited to them.
Well, this friend of mine had a great set of ideals and if someone had asked him about his views of love they would have been impressed by his words. Yet he did not live out his ideals because he was emotion-driven. He tried to find his fulfillment in girl after girl and left a string of broken hearts in his wake. All because he did not set boundaries on his friendships and formed emotional attachments with every girl that he could. When a girl would disappoint him, he would turn to the next one that gave him a good feeling.
Watching this chap’s life made me understand what a dangerous thing emotions can be. If he had formed only one emotional attachment to one girl who was to be his wife there would be nothing wrong with that. But he used his emotions to test and sample girls to try and find the right one, which resulted in a good deal of hurt. His actions have served as a warning to me and have shown me why emotion is not to be a person’s guide.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, how much greater love would a man have if he was guided by wisdom? What if he took time to truly get to know his friends with his mind instead of letting emotion cloud his thinking into forming unrealistic idols of them? Real love involves patience and determination more than emotion. I admire and respect the men I know that have great marriages, and I have found that a common thread in most of the great marriages I have seen has been wisdom.
Virtually all of the godly men that I consider to be mentors are wise, not impulsive, and their love springs from determination instead of feelings. That is exactly how I want to live. I want to love from the heart, yes, but from the head as well. I want my love to endure past emotions and feelings and experiences. I want my love to be determined, patient, and steadfast. I refuse to follow my heart. For my heart is deceitful. Instead I will follow wisdom, for wisdom comes from God.