Feelings: A Bane or a Blessing?
"Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil."1
Imagine living in a world without feelings? As someone noted in Reader's Digest some years ago, "Life without feelings would be like playing a trombone with a stuck slide"—incredibly dull and boring.
In a Daily Encounter when I talked about the need for effective communications at the feeling level for intimacy and stated that feelings, in and of themselves, are neither right nor wrong, one reader shared his thoughts as follows:
"I have read your column for as long as it has existed. I am a huge fan. But your column today was the first time I saw something that doesn't make any sense. You said, 'Feelings in and of themselves are neither right nor wrong.' Sure they are. The psychopathic killer that gets upset by the slightest provocation and becomes enraged, certainly his feelings are wildly disproportionate to the slight, and leads to his killing someone."
In my response I stated that feelings are feelings—and not actions. Feelings are an indication of what is going on in one's inner self—often from the unconscious mind. They are an "emotional thermometer" as it were indicating the state of one's inner self. The important thing is to learn how to discern what our feelings are telling us and then act appropriately.
For instance, if I have continuing feelings of anger, this is an indication that I probably have an unresolved relational conflict that I need to resolve. Or if I have ongoing feelings of guilt, this is an indication that I need to put something right and seek forgiveness. Think too of temptation. It starts in the mind. The thoughts and feelings associated with the temptation are neither right nor wrong. It's what we do about them—or in response to them—that makes them either right or wrong.
The feelings of the psychopathic killer you talk about—among other things—undoubtedly has a major problem with unresolved anger/hostility. It was his failure (or inability because of his mental illness) to resolve his hostility, which led him to act out his feelings by killing someone, which was tragically wrong.
Recall that the Bible says, "Be angry, and do not sin." It's what we do about our anger that becomes either right or wrong—creative, or destructive and sinful. Remember, too, that what negative feelings we don't talk out creatively, we will inevitably act out destructively.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to discern the source of any and all negative feelings and, when they are indicating that something in my life needs facing and resolving, help me to see the reality of this, and get the help I need to resolve them so I won't act them out in destructive and sinful ways. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NKJV).