“Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings of love.” If you listened to music in 1974, you know this song. Is it stuck in your head now? Then tell yourself, “Self, I am not going to be singing that song to myself for rest of the day!” Good luck with that! This Wednesday I am wondering about feelings–no not the song; rather the feelings that come from within us.
Can we live a full, productive, even successful life based on our feelings? We hear a lot in our culture about “feelings”. In our culture, feelings seem to be the landmark of defining one’s identity. We also hear a lot about emotions. In my own way I want to address this and specifically how that feelings and emotions are not one in the same. I want you to be able to distinguish the difference between a feeling and an emotion.
The are NOT the same. I realize that some of you may disagree with me, and say I’m wrong. It’s OK for you to disagree with me and tell me I need to change this thought of mine. I could agree with you that I’m wrong on this–but then we’d both be wrong. Anyway. . .here’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion.
A feeling is something we believe to be true. . .about ourselves. . .or another person/group. . .or a situation we have faced, are facing, or may face. Feelings are just that–something that we believe to be true about ourselves, another person, or a particular situation. I’m not talking about what IS ACTUALLY TRUE, but what WE BELIEVE is true.
Now, let’s get to that other word: Emotions! Emotions are our response to those feelings; whether they are our feelings about ourselves, another person, or that particular situation. Emotions are the way we express the response to our feelings. If you have no feelings, you have no emotions. If you have no emotions, you have no feelings.
Now, feelings and emotions were created by God for us as human beings. Feelings and emotions are both gifts from God that reflect a part of HIS Image that HE placed in each person. We cannot deny them. We cannot ignore them. And we cannot downplay the role they have in us successfully becoming a whole person. We need both feelings and emotions if we are going to become the best possible self that God created for us to be.
However. . .well, let me use a “preacher” term here: BUT! Yeah, yeah, the preacher’s but. Just when you think you’ve got something good going on, that blessed preacher inserts his or her BUT! Don’t you just love a preacher’s but! I want to center in on “feelings” But feelings do not give us our true identity as a person created in the image of God. Feelings are simply what we believe to be true about ourselves. Because we believe our feelings are true about ourselves, we allow those feelings to give us our Identity–to define who we believe we really are.
Now God gave us the capacity to have feelings. He gave us the ability to have emotions. These are just a part of God’s identity–but they do not give God HIS Identity. They are a wonderful part of that unique blend of so many parts. Just like you can’t have a cake with just eggs, or just flour, or just sugar or just milk. You got to have all those other ingredients–and don’t forget all those extra “flavorings” you can add that changes everything about a cake.
Feelings are not the whole of a simple organism; feelings are a part of a very complex organism–just a part, but an essential part. We are living in a time when people are being told they MUST live and IDENTIFY who they are as a person based only upon one part of this complex organism. Feelings are allowed to become the dictator, and our emotions follow the lead of that dictator.
God never designed us to live by our feelings. And He never intended that we allow our feelings to define us and give us our true identity. Living only by feelings creates a false self–never your true self. Yes, He gave us feelings, but they are only a part of the process if you would, to help us become who HE created us to become–Our WHOLE, TRUE SELF. The Best Self Possible.
Remember that “feelings” are something we believe to be true; not necessarily true–but we believe they are true. Just because we believe it is true, doesn’t make it true. I am so sorry Calvinists. I am so sorry progressive thinkers and theologians. I am so sorry fellow evangelical sisters and brothers! We are NOT who we are based solely on our feelings. We human beings can’t define what is really TRUE! That ability is way beyond our pay grade.
When we try to live out of our feelings it creates instability. Feelings can and will vary in a day–just like weather varies every day in Alabama. In the early mornings I get my jacket. By mid morning I hang it back up. By mid-day I’m putting on a short sleeve shirt. And my afternoon, I’m looking for my shorts and sandals. Feelings change.
God never designed feelings to be our sole or primary identification in life. And we need to be careful with our feelings. I’m sure you’ve had feelings in retrospect you knew were wrong. You didn’t know it as the time–but hindsight is always 20-20. And if you are honest, you know that those feelings (feelings you believed were true at the moment) caused damage and inflicted hurt–either on another person, on yourself, or both. And I bet right now you are remembering the damage your feelings that you believed were right at that moment caused. And that damage may still be present–the wounds haven’t yet healed. And you are aware of the damage that resulted when your feelings were wrong.
When feelings becomes the determining factor–the damage caused by feelings and the subsequent emotions runs deep; and it keeps us from our True Self, the one created in the Image of God.