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

Feeling And Thinking

Has our society said two things are identical that are not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, a long discussion took place on my Facebook page when I said that a person should act loving towards their spouse even if they don’t feel love. The discussion centered around if love was a feeling or not. I contend that it is not. It may result in feelings that we call the feeling of love, but it itself is not a feeling. It is an action and it is a commitment.

I think there’s a great problem in our society today that we have equated feeling with thinking. You’ll watch a program on the news with some commentators and you’ll hear about the latest political event and the host will ask a guest “How do you feel about that?” That could be one thing. That could matter at one point. What matters most is what a person thinks. In fact, if you do counseling, you realize this is a tremendously important distinction. It’s alright to ask how someone feels when something is said, but then you have to ask what the truth really is.

This isn’t to knock feelings entirely. Feelings are very helpful. They alert us to certain realities and can help train our thinking. A feeling of fear can help us think carefully in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, fallen that we are, it can also take over for us. A feeling of love can motivate a man to love his wife, but a feeling of lust can motivate a man to rape a woman.

Our culture has become one where the feelings are central. We’ve heard the saying “If it feels right, do it.” Just yesterday I blogged about Michael Shermer at a debate and how he said that if we want to see if an action is right or wrong, we ask how it feels to the recipient. Now of course, that is important information, but that doesn’t settle the case.

If it did, then it’s wrong for a girl to ever say no to a guy for a date because, hey, that doesn’t feel good. I could say as a non-profit that it doesn’t feel good to not get donations, therefore anyone who refuses to donate to Deeper Waters is in the wrong, but that would be a terrible argument. A man could say it doesn’t feel good to be laid off from his job, therefore laying someone off is never justified. Of course, there could be cases where it is unjustified, but you don’t know by looking at the feeling.

One of the big problems with feelings is that they come and go. You don’t have a feeling that lasts forever. Even the really really good feelings fade after awhile. People with addictions know this. You meet your addiction and you get your positive feeling and it’s really good, but then you go right back to it eventually. Often times, it takes more and more to satisfy that urge. An alcoholic needs to drink more. Someone with food addictions needs to eat more. Someone with a porn problem needs more and more variety and deeper and deeper fulfillments.

Sometimes, this can be used for good. A couple can have really euphoric feelings over their sexual relationship in marriage, and that drives them to want more of each other. (By the way ladies, most men will not have a law of diminishing returns here either. We instead appreciate you even more.) I find that in my Christian walk, I need even more and more deeper truths about Christianity and that drives me to learn and study more and more. What we have to ask with each desire is “Am I desiring a thing that is really good?” and then “Am I desiring it in the right way?” and finally “Am I desiring it in the right proportion?”

If your thinking is based on your feelings, then you will live in a responsive mode all the time and not a proactive mode. You will also live a very me-centered lifestyle. Everything is about you and what you feel. Again, this isn’t to say that sometimes what a person feels isn’t important, but it isn’t everything. We always say it’s wrong to hurt someone’s feelings. I’d say it’s wrong to do it needlessly. In fact, sometimes hurting someone’s feelings can be the loving thing to do if you have to tell them a hard truth.

We live in a society now that feels more than it thinks. Hopefully we can get a turn around. We can get to a society I hope that will seek once again the good, the true, and the beautiful, and not be caught up with itself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters