Don’t follow your heart: how to be freed from your feelings

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, black or white, tall or short, introverted or extroverted, and so on, but there is one person you must preach to. Even if you are terribly shy of the public or cannot speak, it is still your responsibility. Maybe you are even mute, yet you are still obligated to preach to this person. If you fail to preach to them no one will pick up your slack. The obligation to speak truth to this person in your life is completely upon your own shoulders. You cannot blame nor expect the pastor to do it. It is your job, no one else can do it.

Who is this person? Your wife or your husband? Your child or parent? Your best friend? All of those are  very valid answers, yet there is someone even more important. Yourself.

You need to preach to yourself. Daily. Probably hourly. Here is why:

WE ARE DRIVEN BY FEELINGS

Why do you do the things that you do? Most often because you “feel” you want to. The rest of the time you “feel” you ought to. We often call this “following your heart” even though modern medicine has uprooted the heart as the root of emotions. We understand “following our heart” is really following the emotional part of our brain. Nonetheless, we are still following emotions and feelings. The way we feel is a big part of our personhood and psychology. Feelings are also very potent in changing our behavior or directing our life and actions. I would submit to you that almost every single thing that is sinful, stupid, or sad, is the cause of obeying our feelings. Let’s review the seven deadly sins and explore whether the cause of these sins is an obedience to the truth or an obedience to feelings/heart.

1. Lust

He clicks the same website yet again. This young man looks at porn because he is controlled and manipulated by his feelings. He feels the sensation of excitement and satisfaction when he looks at naked women. The next day he feels that he wants to do it again because his emotions illicit a desire for another wave of pleasure. He looks around, forgetting yesterdays promise of “never again” and obeys his feelings to yet again. The young woman who jumps into the arms of any willing man also follows her feelings. She feels the tantalizing desire to be embraced, romanced, and sought after. She feels a craving for sensations of pleasure and adoration, so she obeys her emotional desires and gets into another bed she should avoid. Her quiet voice says “I shouldn’t” but her heart demands otherwise.

2. Gluttony

They sit on the bus across from each other, looking radically different. The obese man who cannot stop eating and the “normal sized” but also food-addicted woman (who happens to have a luckier metabolism) share two things. First, they love to eat, and second, they constantly overeat because they desire to feel the exotic taste of flavorsome food and drink. Regardless of what is good for him, he walks into an all-you-can-eat buffet because he is driven by a desire to experience the feelings and sensations of appetizing tastes. He then hangs his head down and obeys his feelings, overeating and ruining his body. A few bus stops later the woman gets off, carrying a brown paper bag, she enters her house, and takes out four portions, and begins the daily evening worship of her gluttonous feelings.

3. Greed

He has all but given up his family for money. Working late into the evening, tackling extra projects on a quest for promotions. He feels that glamorous sense of power because he is able to buy anything he wants to. He feels the wonderful sense of prestige from having so much wealth. It’s getting late and his wife is waiting for him, but he thinks of the money he can make. His vision turns green. She is not exceptionally wealthy, but she still has her life’s savings which is appropriately tucked away. She is very old, doesn’t have much time left, and the money will do her no good, yet she keeps it all to herself. She needs to be safe and that money is her safety. She feels that money will keep her protected and comfortable. She is like the wealthy man, both wont share their money with another, but they share the same DNA and the same obedience to their feelings of greed.

4. Sloth

The man lying in his parents basement, smoking marijuana and playing video games all day is driven by two feelings. He wants to enjoy the satisfaction and sensation of relaxing, and he hates the feeling of hard work and responsibility.  So he just continues lying there, and submitting to an emotional desire for relaxation. The sun sets to close off another week, as it will set on his life, but he keeps obeying his desire to simply lay there. The woman cheating the welfare system does so because she hates work, but rather loves the feeling of getting free money, all while relaxing. She signs another fake document, hardly having any energy to do it, and continues living her life the way her feeling of laziness demands.

5. Wrath

A young woman yells in rage at her parents. They did not listen to her opinion, they want her to do things she doesn’t feel like she wants to do. They have given her much over the years and deep down, if she would stop and think, she knows that she should calmly talk to them. Instead, she feels this anger inside, and the release of this emotional pressure feels so much better. She could be nice, but that does not feel as rewarding and gratifying. She ignores the voice of reason and calm in her head and continues yelling, being enslaved by her feelings of rage. All that matters now is her wounded heart, after all, how dare they insult her like this?

6. Envy

His is the smallest house in the neighborhood, strangely located across the street from the largest. The size in comparison is astounding, much like the shiny red corvette in his neighbor’s driveway. He looks at his old minivan with its dull grey paint and plastic hubcaps. He feels he deserves so much more, he wishes he could have that life. As he lies in bed late at night he wrestles with a feeling of inferiority. How could he be so worthless and so unsuccessful? Across the street his wealthy neighbor is also awake in bed, also fantasizing. He is thinking about that woman across the street, and his feelings for her. He craves her and is envious of the middle class man sporting such a beautiful wife. Both men lose hours sleep as the feeling of envy begins to rob them of much more.

7. Pride

She sings in church, and with such a good voice. Everyone knows it too. The amount of boys that are attracted to her causes her heart to flutter. Ah, that amazing feeling of being adored and desired. She goes shopping for clothes and spends a fortune, for she demands perfection in every tiny detail. She looks at the clothes regular people wear and wonders “How could anyone wear such dreadful things?” She has a crowd to please, after all. She is madly driven to succeed. Her feelings scream for a larger stage and more people to speak highly of her; her actions obey. He is the pillar of the community, in their eyes he is generous, wise, responsible, and most importantly blameless. He spitefully looks down at those who are not like him. He feels that rewarding sensation of rightness and near perfection. Unlike most other men, he has managed his life so well. Yet even now he still feels that potent desire to distinguish himself, to show that he is better. He begins another prominent and public project, they will soon marvel at his goodness. He is pleased.

WE ARE LIBERATED BY TRUTHS

If there is truth in this world, and we refuse to yield to it, we believe a falsehood or a lie. It does not matter whether we knowingly reject it or simply don’t know it, we still believe a lie if we do no believe the truth.  If God’s truth dictates one thing, and regardless of our motives,  means, or methods we neglect it then we have rejected the truth.

Often knowing and understanding the truth will bring about glorious emotional ecstasy. Other times it brings a dull and hollow realization of our miserable failures and shortcomings.  Sometimes knowing the truth has no emotional connections at all.  Yet here is the peculiar thing about truth, whatever our feelings may be, or wherever our heart may be leaning, the truth does not change. We may try to reinvent or reinterpret it, however, it does not sway. The truth remain the truth, whether we believe or respond to it.

Should we trust emotions?

Take for example the truth that cocaine is a harmful substance. A person who has tried it and enjoyed the drug-induced delight has very strong feelings that cocaine is good, rather than bad. He is quite satisfied with it and in fact loves it. His feelings towards cocaine are not based on the truth, but the fact that he gets chemical satisfaction and enjoyment from it. Another person may have no feelings at all towards cocaine, but rather ignores it completely. A third is so frightened of it that he is afraid to even research it, thinking merely reading about it will draw him in. All these views are emotions and feelings that do not represent the truth. Emotions cannot be trusted because they often have no relationship to the truth.

Should we get rid of emotions?

So then what must we do? Should be become cold and emotionless? Should we strive to become like Vulcan’s (sorry, nerd reference), and completely eradicate everything that even looks like a feeling? That would make us less than human and rob us of the very many good things in life that are in part emotional, like love, for example. And even if we made the determination to be rid of emotions, could we do it? Hardly. Humans are such emotional creatures it would be impossible to get rid of our feelings without making someone something other than a human.

What are we to do with emotions?

So we cannot trust our feelings, nor get rid of our feeling, what are we to do? What place does the heart, as the “seat of all emotion” have in the human life? What place do feelings and emotions have within a Christian worldview? The answer is rather very simple: preach truth to yourself and let your emotions follow. Instead of worshiping and obeying your emotions, worship and obey Gods truth with your emotions. In our culture we commonly tell people to follow their heart, however, the greatest advice is the opposite. Don’t follow your heart. Instead follow the truth, and then love the truth with your heart.

One response

  1. This is a great statement, “Instead of worshiping and obeying your emotions, worship and obey Gods truth with your emotions.” If we could get our minds and hearts around it I’m certain it would change our churches. Too many people are carried away with the “follow your heart” Oprah style religion.

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