Feeling Is Not Thinking

Does our little use of wordage make a difference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Years ago, I heard N.T. Wright on Unbelievable and I don’t remember the show or the context, but I remember very much what he said. I am sure Justin Brierley, the host, had asked him how he feels about a certain topic. Wright responded that it needs to be asked how he thinks because the confusing of thinking and feeling is one of the great problems of Western culture.

I think he’s quite right and if you watch, you will be amazed how often this happens. One time it really struck me as I began to start noticing it was back in college. In the lobby area once where the students hung out, someone had on the TV some sports talk show. One person at the newsdesk said to another about a recent event in sports, “How do you feel about that?”

I used to have this happen with Jehovah’s Witnesses when we lived in Knoxville. They would come and visit us and then do something like read a passage of Scripture and say to me “How do you feel about that?” I would usually say something like, “Happy.” “Okay.” “Good.” Then I would say, “I think what you really want to know is what I think about it.”

What is most concerning about this is that we take our feelings then to be revealers of thoughts just as much as our thinking is. Our feelings can only tell us about our emotional response to such things. It might be an appropriate or inappropriate response and we should think about what our emotions are telling us, but they’re meant to tell us about ourselves. Your emotions cannot tell you about another human being or about God.

We spend so much time emphasizing our feelings that we don’t really think. It’s understandable that sometimes we act on emotional responses immediately, though it should be a goal to try to avoid this. If we just listen to our emotions over and over though, we become purely reactional beings and will always be reactional beings.

If we take it too far, we will start to often think our emotions are telling us the truth about God. That can lead to us thinking God is angry with us or doesn’t love us or anything like that. Now I think God cannot not love us and He cannot be angry with us in the way we take anger to be. When we put our emotions at that level, we put them at the center of the universe and more than that, we put ourselves there as well.

I recommend today you watch the people around you and watch the people on the news or anywhere you see people talking. Watch and see how often thinking and feeling are confused. Once you start seeing it, it’s hard to unsee it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters