Recently, I wrote about "When to Sympathize with Women." Wow, did that generate some comment. The topic bopped back and forth in the virtual badminton match was emotion. Can your feelings be wrong? - not in the correct/incorrect sense, like when Marge Simpson says her "woman's intuition is acting up, Homey." But can a feeling itself be, well, wrong? Like when it's wrong to lie or steal.
So, we're not going to clear the dust on this anytime soon - but it's worth asking. And my first question is, how do you know things? Well, you know from sensory input - you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel things. You know from rational thought - you know, "I think, therefore I am" kind of stuff. And you know from...the gut. Inside you. Now, that may be a subconcious reaction from your senses, or thoughts, or it might just be....ugh. Gesture, hesitate, try to explain. Intuition, feeling, emotion. You could possibly call this the "mystical" side of knowing, too, like when you just, well...know.
And of course if you're part of a religion, what you think guides how you interpret what you see or know through your feelings, or what you feel guides how you view the world, and so on. And many religions put forth that there's some kind of revelation from a higher Being to us humans - and we may know that revelation through our senses, or the way God has made our minds, or through our feelings or emotions.
Now, from the simply human side of this, personality enters in: some people process experiences by how they feel about them - "oh my goodness, that ride was so scary, I was hanging upside down in a roller coaster and thought I was going to die," - welcome to my amusement park experiences. And some people process experiences first by what they think of them - "the engineering on that ride was amazing. Do you know the G-force on that sucker? It's a 300 foot drop!" Everybody, of course, uses both of these - I feel things and I think. So do you. The question is, like my friend Krista, do you stop to "think about how I feel"? Or do you feel something and decide what you think as a result? Or maybe both trip over each other's heels as you feel and then automatically analyze what you feel and why (me).
So how do you know? Or, enter postmodernity, can you know? Or, like the show "Lost", do you really know what you think you know? "The Truman Show" is a great example of that - the movie tells the story of a guy who's lived in one place all his life, has a wife, a job - and then finds out that it's all a set of a reality tv show that he never knew about - the corporation had adopted him as an infant and he had lived his whole life in a giant tv set. But then, accidentally, he found out - and whole different world presented itself to him - the real world. And how he felt was based on what he thought.
Now, can you have a poorly ordered feeling? That is, can a feeling be based on something faulty rather than something true? When a five year old screams "you never, ever, let me do anything fun," I'm sure he means it - but that, in fact, doesn't reflect the truth. Is every desire you feel legitimate simply because you desire it? No - I desire dark chocolate every day of my life. To indulge every day would involve several wrongly ordered loves.
Just because a feeling is genuine doesn't mean it's in line with Truth that transcends thought, senses, and emotion. I can genuinely feel abandoned by God - but maybe my perceptions of God need altered, and then I will feel differently about Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
So if conversion - which is a turning from self-interests to Christ's redemption - involves the whole person, as a created being - your past experiences, your thoughts, your attitudes, your emotions - what does God want you to do with your emotions? Does God care about them?
Surely so - hate is both attitude, thought, and rage. Surely self-righteousness involves muddied thinking, inaccurate self-perceptions, and the feeling of pride.
Some days I feel impatient. And - get this - it's wrong for me to do so. Let's not consider only the negative though, but the positive: is it wrong for me to feel love for certain things?
I hope so! I hope it's wrong for a grown man to feel certain kinds of "love" for a five year old child, no matter how genuine he feels. It's wrong to love your country more than you love God. It's wrong to love yourself to the detriment of loving others. But I use "love" here loosely, because Trinitarian love is one thing, but broken, faulty love of humans, quite another.
If you think God brings "rightness" to the world - righting wrongs, righting disorder and chaos, righting attitudes and hearts and minds and loves - then you likely think there exists in the world some "wrongness." It is contact with God that helps us to truly love. God's sustaining providence means there's still some good in the world - parents love kids, kids love dogs, dogs love everybody. But when grace pounds on your door and you find yourself spring cleaning your soul, mind, whole self with the Holy Spirit, you find sometimes that God's love looks very different than yours. Maybe your love is faulty, or broken, or imperfect - everyone's is, after all. But love transcends emotion and feeling, because the Trinity is love - a standard never to be met with all the Valentine cards in the world. And if Christ-Love transcends feelings and emotions, then it's possible that Christ-Love will shape, mold, and conform our feelings to love what God loves, think as Christ thinks, feel as Christ feels. So that there is an objective, true, pulsing, vibrant, live Love guiding and establishing our thoughts, feelings, emotions, perceptions, and interpretations.