The Importance of Feelings

posted by Kristi

Christian author, Matthew Elliott, asserts the following in Chapter 4 of his book “Feel: The Power of Listening to Your Heart”: “The problem is that we’re taught by the church and our culture that emotions are not reliable indicators of truth. As a result, we are conditioned to believe that our feelings are trivial and useless.” Then, he tells two very thought-provoking (and emotion-provoking!) stories.

The first is about the penalty phase of the trial of convicted terrorist Moussaoui (tried and convicted as a 9/11 conspirator). Elliott quotes AP reporter Michael Sniffen who said, “Moussaoui defiantly proclaimed he felt ‘no regret, no remorse.’ . . . He said heart-rending testimony of victims and relatives had disgusted him, and he wished they had suffered more.” Elliott continues, “At one point, a video of the Twin Towers tragedy was shown in the courtroom. When Moussaoui saw the images of people jumping to their deaths to avoid burning in the inferno, it struck him as funny. He laughed out loud. The day Moussaoui laughed, it was all over the news . . . With that laugh, every juror knew the truth. Moussaoui’s emotions betrayed his evil heart.” Author Matthew Elliott maintains that “Emotion is not an illogical reflex, unreliable, and fickle. Emotions cut through all of our talk, all of our spin, and take us right to the truth of the matter . . . . We know intuitively what we deny rationally.”

Later, in that same chapter, he explores this further with a story from the Old Testament. He reminds the reader of young King Solomon and how he was told by God in a dream that he could ask for anything he wanted, and Solomon asked God for wisdom — ‘a wise and understanding heart.’ God granted that request! And we see evidence of this wisdom in the story of the two women who came to him in a dispute about which woman was the mother of a baby boy. As you may remember, each woman had given birth to a boy, but one woman’s baby died, yet she claimed the baby boy who was alive belonged to her. The other mother claimed that this other woman had taken her baby away from her while she was sleeping, and had replaced her living child with this dead baby. Solomon didn’t have the scientific tools that are used in our courtrooms today. He had another tool. He commanded for someone to bring him a sword, and he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

Right then and there, Solomon knew the truth when he looked at those two women and heard their responses. The true mother cried out for the baby to be given to the other woman. And incredibly, the mother who had been lying cried out, “He will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!” In this account, Elliott points out that ” . . . the first story told about the wisest man ever is about how he made a just and true decision based on the emotional response of a mother who dearly loved her child.”

We at BJUGrace want to affirm the importance of feelings. The teachers and preachers of our background have emphasized that feelings are to be ignored (at least any feeling that is deemed “negative”), but feelings are a barometer of the soul. No matter how we may try to squelch feelings, it is feelings that make the truth we embrace seem real or false. If we embrace truth but never “feel” it to be true, then we will be constantly struggling in our Christian lives. As Christians, to ignore our feelings, to shove them aside, is to live a nearly powerless, lifeless Christianity. When the truths of who Jesus is and what He accomplishes come out of the filing cabinet into the living color of our experience, then that is when the Christian life can become one of victory and power.

The Psalmist David acknowledged his feelings in his many psalms–anger, pain, despair. He didn’t deny his feelings, but poured them out, and reminded himself to continue to hope in God. When the Scripture tells us to have the ‘mind’ of Christ, we understand that it refers in totality to the mind, will, and emotions. We maintain that in order to live an abundant life, the life Christ came to give us, we need to embrace the reality that our emotions are important to God.