The Dilemma of Emotions

>> Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do you remember Mr. Spock of the Star Trek television series? Mr. Spock was not human. One of his distinguishing features was that he had no emotions. He was completely logical. He could be objective in his decisions because they were not influenced by his feelings.

I grew up in a church that had the same philosophy. Emotions were not to be trusted and were of the devil. I remember a minister being asked to leave our church because he allowed the Music Director to stir up emotions with the songs he chose.

Another time, when I had just walked home from Junior High, I placed my books on the table a tad bit too hard. My mother was sure there had been some emotion in that placing and made me go to the altar and ask for forgiveness for my anger.

One time my sister took me to a Holy Roller church. I watched in amazement as people fell to the floor or put their hands in the air and shouted and screamed. My heart pounded with fear. I was sure the devil was lurking nearby.

You get the idea. Emotions were a weakness of the human being. Experiencing anger or sorrow meant you had allowed the devil to take control.

If anyone could demonstrate detachment from emotions, I thought it would be Jesus. However, a study of the gospels revealed a Jesus who was very emotional. A couple of times they mentioned that He wept. His actions while cleaning the temple of the racketeers revealed His anger.

Imagine my surprise!

And in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Bible says He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. This is Jesus we are talking about. He seems to be a little hurt and disappointed that His friends could not stay awake during His time of distress.

What about emotions? It’s a dilemma.

In Luke, the doctor tells us Jesus was in such agony that His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Why such agony? Jesus knew that his resurrection was only three days off. Had Jesus been like Mr. Spock and used only His logic, He would have calmly accepted the task before Him. But Jesus was like us in the sense that He had a heart of emotions.

The gospel writers paint their portraits of Jesus using a kaleidoscope of brilliant emotional colors. Jesus felt compassion; He was angry, indignant, and consumed with zeal; He was troubled, greatly distressed, very sorrowful, depressed, deeply moved, and grieved; He sighed; He wept and sobbed; He groaned; He was in agony; He was surprised and amazed; He rejoiced very greatly and was full of joy; He greatly desired, and He loved.

In my quest to stop being religious and start being like Jesus, I had to take a look at His emotional side. He was made in the image of God. So how could I knowingly stifle the emotions He gave me?

The very first emotion I took a look at was anger. My ex-husband’s actions toward me and our children should have caused some reaction. Yet I had never felt even a flicker of anger toward him.

About the time I began examining my lack of emotions, I moved from Nebraska to Idaho to start my life over. The church I decided to attend did not have a class for divorced women, so I began meeting with a class in a house across the street.

God has a sense of humour.

I had no idea the class I had chosen to attend was the renegade class, the ones that didn’t fit anywhere else. But it was the perfect class for me. No one in the class agreed on anything. It made me think for the first time about what I truly believed.

One of the members of that class was a Psychology professor. He would try to be friendly by placing his hand on my shoulder. I would immediately stiffen. No man was allowed to touch me. But he seemed like a very nice person.

One day I called his office and said, “Mac, I’ve been doing some thinking. I think I need to learn how to get angry.” He laughed and I cringed. But then he said, “If anyone else had told me that, I would say they already knew how to be angry. I don’t believe you do. I’ll even give you the sessions for free.”

It took me three one-hour sessions.

I learned that, as an emotion, anger is not wrong or sinful. It is what we do with anger that could be sinful. In fact there would be occasions when it would be sinful not to be angry. Anger was the hardest emotion for me to accept.

And so, over the years, I’ve worked on becoming more human. No longer am I a stoic and allow life to just happen to me. I feel deeply. I’ve become a hugger. I see things that trouble my spirit and other situations that bring me great joy.

It’s much easier to be like Mr. Spock … but oh so empty. Today I live a truly blessed life, with my very own kaleidoscope of brilliant emotional colors.

“When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, "Where did you put him?"

"Master, come and see," they said. Now Jesus wept.

 The Jews said, "Look how deeply he loved him."
 Others among them said, "Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man."

 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.” John 11:33-38 (MSG)


Pia Newman March 30, 2011 at 6:38 AM  

Great post - it made me tear up! Kudos to you for letting your anger out! It's so important to fully experience what we're feeling, when we feel it. Then we can accept and move beyond it.

Isn't it wonderful, to know that God has a sense of humor? I'm convinced He has every kind of humor and knows every kind of emotion any human has ever felt. After all, He created not just Jesus, but all of us, in His image, and He feels and experiences everything we do. To deny our emotions would be to deny His gifts. If we shut our emotions away, we imprison our soul and will never fully connect to Him.

That is my experience, at least.

Joy Bach March 30, 2011 at 7:08 AM  

Pia, thanks so much for commenting and for your kind words. It was such a wonderful discovery for me. Yes, I believe He has a great sense of humor.

Have a great day!

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