Monday, August 29, 2005

Feelings vs. Right &Wrong

Sorry for not blogging much lately folks, I've been in a pensive mood the last week or so. I have a lot on my mind and none of can be expressed in a quick post and I just haven't had the time to really write it all out.

One of the subjects that has come up with a couple of friends recently is differentiating between what people 'feel' and what is right or wrong.

I'll just jump right in because this is what the whole off-line discussion really boils down to. Love is not an emotion. Are you clear on that or are you already shaking your head and clucking your tongue? Whether we're talking about romantic love, familial love or the love of God for his wayward creation, I state categorically, that love is not an emotion. I'll explain my position in a little bit but let's look at the results of treating love like an emotion first.

When you believe that love is an emotion you base your actions toward those you 'love' based on how you 'feel' about them at any given moment. When you're mad at your family, you say things to them that you regret because your're not feeling love for them at the same time you're angry with them. Parents that love their children will cross the line between discipline and abuse them because they are angry. Husbands will find other women because they don't 'feel' like they're getting enough love from their wives. Wives will leave their husbands because they don't feel like they love them any more. Lifelong friendships are broken and good romances go bad because people don't 'feel' the same way they used to.

No one says or does hurtful things to those they love when they are feeling good about that person. Why then do we feel justified in hurting them when we're not feeling good about them?

Your love for other people cannot be based on how you feel about them -- at all. Feelings change constantly and the heart is deceitful above all things so why should our actions toward others stem from how we feel about them at a given moment?

I love my Little Difster with all my heart; no one that has seen me with her doubts that for a moment. There are times though when I 'feel' something other than love toward her. Anger, frustration, impatience and sometimes even indifference. Do I 'love' her any less at those moments than I do when I am 'feeling' love for her? It depends on how I act toward her when I am feeling those things. How do I treat her? Do I yell at her more if I'm frustrated? Do I discipline her more harshly than warranted if I'm angry? Do I ignore her if I'm feeling a bit indifferent? If my actions toward my daughter are driven by my negative emotions then I'm certainly not acting in love toward her. It gets even harder with my wife given that I'm in the middle of a divorce. I don't 'feel' like loving my wife. Really, she can just piss off; that's how I feel about her most of the time. But I still love her and my feelings have no bearing on it. If they did I wouldn't try to reconcile.

How can I love my daughter if I'm not feeling any love for her? How can I love my wife when I mostly feel anger, sorrow and resentment toward her? I choose to. The love I have for either one of them is not based on how I feel, it's based on what I do and how I treat them.

How I choose to act toward those I love is the measure of my love. Love is not an emotion, emotion is a byproduct of love. That 'feeling' of love is what reminds us to act out love. What so many people fail to recognize is that we can, and should act out of love when the 'feeling' isn't there and especially when the feelings are pegging the other end of the meter.

We have shows like Oprah and Montel and all of that other crap where the whole point is to go on national TV and let everyone know how you feel. Sheesh, you don't have to show everything you feel. It's actually a very good thing to keep some of it inside. There is a time and a place for everything.

News bulletin: I DON'T CARE HOW YOU FEEL. How you feel about something carries no weight whatsoever when it comes to doing what's right. If I hurt your feelings by doing the right thing that is your problem not mine. We must take grace, mercy and compassion in to account as well. Tell the truth in love, not out of malice intent.

Do the right thing no matter how you feel. If you're angry or hurt by someone, stop for a moment and get control of yourself and act rightly. I've been accused of not caring because a particular thing doesn't seem to bother me (mostly by women). It's not that I don't care or that I don't have feelings on the matter, it's just that it's not always appropriate or prudent to 'express' how I feel about it, at least not to certain people at certain times. I can feel fear but I don't have to act on it. I can feel 'love' for another person that I certainly shouldn't be acting on if you get my drift. I met a girl the other day and my heart was all a flutter. She was sweet and she was pretty and she seemed genuinely interested in me. I couldn't act on how I was feeling though because it would have been wrong. I could have asked her out; hey, that's how I was 'feeling' at the time. I didn't because I would have been betraying my wife even though she isn't acting in love toward me. I could provide many more examples, analogies and allegories but I think I've made my point. Now comes the important part.

For all of our faults, our anger, our bitterness, our hate and our sin, God still loves us. It is irrelevant if I don't happen to feel God's love for me at any given moment. I know that God's love for me is steady, constant and enduring. I don't always feel it but I always know it. I never have to wonder how God 'feels' about me because I know He loves me. He loves you too whether you feel it or not. He loves you whether or not you love Him and are acting rightly toward Him. His love for you is meant to be an example to you of how to treat others. God is full of grace and compassion and love. He disciplines us out of his love for us and discipline never feels like love at the time; sometimes it's downright offensive but with God it is always out of love. Even when God's wrath is poured out upon the earth, it is driven by His righteousness, justice and love. He loved us and through Jesus, He provided us a way to restore that relationship He created us to have with Him. Act on what is true and what is right because your feelings will turn you wrong more often than not.