Emotions are tough to deal with sometimes. It’s something we see routinely as we teach our Marriage Builders class or meet with couples we are mentoring. Whenever we talk to someone who is letting their emotions get the best of them, we try to give them some helpful advise. First, the most important thing to remember is, emotions are untrustworthy.
Many years ago Dr. James Dobson wrote a book called, “Emotions: Can You Trust Them.” Now, the title alone invokes a serious question. Can you trust what you feel? The answer to that is yes and no. There is a valid reason and usefulness for our emotions. Life would be less than it should be if we felt no emotion. Our emotions can help motivate us to live life to the fullest. As well as help us keep the most important people in our lives as high priority. But, there are times our emotions are unfounded and irrational. And when we are not careful our emotions can lead us in the wrong direction.
Jesus gives us a great example for how we can experience feelings, yet not be led with uncontrolled emotions. His example alone shows us there are times to show our feelings, as he did at the grave site of his friend Lazarus. And there are times to submit our feelings, just as he did in the garden on the night before his crucifixion. Jesus also gave us some valuable teachings on feelings and acts of the will.
Jesus gave us a command to go and love one another even as he has loved us. He gave us a command to love God and to love our neighbor. Notice that everywhere we are told in the bible to love, it is an act of the will. Love is not a feeling, it is an action that produces a feeling. For instance; I don’t love a new food until I have experienced it. I don’t love a favorite place until I have been there and enjoyed myself there. So the feeling of love comes after the experience of acting. When I act in a loving way to another person, I will develop feelings that correspond to my actions.
Try this little idea: We have within us a three car train, the engine, a passenger car, and a caboose. The engine is our thoughts, the middle car is our actions, and the caboose is our emotions.
- The engine always comes first. The bible says: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thinking drives us to where we want to go.
- Then the passenger car is our actions. Actions should follow the way we think.
- Finally, the caboose is our emotions. We get to feel the experience of where our actions take us.
- Thoughts-actions-feelings, this is the way to function in life with balance.
But if we turn it around. We let our emotions get the best of us and suddenly it’s in control. Our feelings will dictate how we act – and our actions will – cause us to change the way we think. Just as a train cannot be led by the caboose, neither can we be led by our emotions.
So, where is your caboose?