Myths about Emotions Part One

I am preparing for a sermon series this summer that I have titled Spiritual Emotions: Turning our Hearts to God. I have been reading various books and articles regarding how our emotions and spirit interact.

I recently posted on Robert Roberts works here.

I have wrestled with various myths in regards to our emotions.

The first myth is that emotions are wildly disruptive and irrational, something we cannot control. An emotion like anger seems to grab hold of me and I am unable to think or act rationally. The emotion takes control and bad things happen, sort of like the comic book hero The Incredible Hulk who is the alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner. Whenever Dr. Banner becomes angry, he is transformed in monster/superhero The Hulk and things get smashed.

I still remember the day when I was driving my family to the store and as I approached a parking spot someone cut in front of me and took the parking spot. I immediately felt this wave of anger push up inside me, “This not fair,” and I jumped out of the car to confront the other driver. He was startled by the vehemence of my indignation (as was my family). In my anger, I told him to get back into his car and move it. He just looked at me strangely and then walked away. I was still fuming as I returned to my car and found a new parking spot. My wife chastised me for letting my anger become so wild.

Now my anger in that situation was irrational and I did some foolish things. But it is a myth to say that my anger “made” me do it. I made choices in my actions that I controlled. I now confess that I was “wrong” to confront the driver in such a angry manner.

In Genesis 4, God warns Cain about his anger towards his brother Able.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Though feelings of anger rose within me, when what I was thought of as “my” parking spot was taken, I had choices.  I could choose to see the perspective of the other driver. Perhaps he did not see me waiting; perhaps he had some urgent matter. I did not need to jump out and confront the other driver. I could have chosen to “count to ten” or pray for him or ask for God’s grace to aid my emotions. I may not always be able to avoid the emotion of anger, but I can learn how to direct and manage my actions around it.

Tomorrow I will post on the myth that emotions are either good or bad, positive or negative.

Lord Jesus, rule in my heart so my heart and body can reflect you.

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