Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?In relation to a past post about the virtues of apathy (sorta), Dawn comments that:
After all, all human emotion serves as a tell-tale for a need unmet. If indeed no "bad" emotion exists and god created us equipt with all these emotions then maybe we are better to take heed to our feelings. Is it possible that all emotions serve to guide us?I've written before about how emotions (particularly love) are deceptive, but I think Dawn's perspective is very common.
For example, yesterday my pastor taught about determining how God wants to use you, a question that transcends mere goals (career or educational, for instance) and deals with who God wants you to be, which is far more important than what he wants you to do (more on this later). I was discussing the message with a girl after church and asking her what she thought God wanted to use her for, and the conversation went something like this:
Me: How do you think God wants to use you?
Her: Well, I like meeting people and talking with people.
Me: So maybe he wants you to teach or something?
Me: Maybe evangelizing.
Her: Mostly I just like meeting boys.
Me: I'm not exactly sure how that accomplishes God's purposes.
Her: Well that's what I like to do.
Me: I don't think that's God, I think that's hormones.
You might read that and laugh, but is it really much different from how we all make decisions much of the time? I want to, therefore I will. If you don't believe in free will, then this is the inescapable doom of humanity. However, God calls us to something better.
Emotions are base and raw, and if we examine our feelings with detachment we can get a good sense of the state of our being. Emotions are useful for telling us where we are right now. The risk comes when we start using our emotions to guide us in our decision-making. As I'm sure you all know, our emotions are fickle and can change in the blink of an eye. The consequences of the decisions we make are not generally so easily reversed.
Our emotions are unpredictable. It's hard to know what we'll want for dinner next week, and yet we expect relationships built on nothing but emotion to endure for a lifetime. That's foolish, and anyone who believes such nonsense is purposefully trying to deceive himself -- likely because he doesn't know of anything else to build a relationship on.
Our emotions lie to us, too. We suppress feelings and then release them on people under wholly unrelated circumstances. Bad traffic can cause you to lash out at someone for no substantial reason when you reach your destination. A good meal can engender feelings of happiness and contentment that can lead you to forgive the worst offense -- something you may have fought over otherwise. In either situation our actions make complete sense to us at the time, even if we have some insight into the underlying emotional mechanisms. The most striking example is that, several years after their defining incident, people crippled in accidents are nearly as happy as people who win the lottery (and both are just about as happy as control groups).
It's fair to claim that we are so intimately tied to our emotions that it's impossible to be completely objective. It isn't easy to act rationally, and it isn't easy to make wise choices based on the way things are rather than the way we want things to be. We must be constantly vigilant against our own deceptive hearts.