Feelings are the place where our flesh meets the world. As we grew up, we learned to like certain things and hate certain things. Certain things made us afraid and other things made us sad and still other things made us angry enough to fight. We learned these responses from the intricate web of connections and stimuli in what we experienced in the world. Some feelings connected to other feelings and all of them were interpreted as how we saw life. And sometimes our feelings caused us problems.
For example, you meet someone in a group and you find that you like that person. Why? Just a feeling, you say. But that feeling may come from the fact that something about this person reminds you of someone else you like or liked at one time. Or someone who was kind to you. Or someone associated with a good, if vague, memory. Or perhaps the person you meet says something that you like, something that connects with other positive feelings. Or perhaps what the person is wearing reminds you of someone or something good. The connections feelings come out of are complicated.
But there are reasons for your feelings. I used to know someone who was very much prejudiced against anyone whose skin was darker than her own. Her prejudice was not reasonable because it came from very early fear. She grew up in a situation where certain segments of the population represented danger to her and her family. Those dangerous people, of course, had dark skin. For much of the rest of her life, she could not trust dark-skinned people and disliked being around them.
Sometimes feelings are based on wrong information, wrong data imprinted on your flesh. But those feelings are still yours and are still part of how you think. And sometimes the associations are strong enough to overcome reason. Even if you don’t want to feel a certain way, you still do. Even if you believe your feelings are wrong responses, they still come from a place deep inside.
The flesh, as I have written before, is the way we learned to deal with life. The flesh is filled with strange connections and feelings. We react certain ways to certain things because that’s what has been programmed into our flesh. A radical transformation is usually required for our feelings to change.
So, for one person to tell another not to feel a certain way is not only narcissistic, it is totally unreasonable. Most of us would love to be able to simply turn certain feelings on or off, but the connections that created our feelings can’t be ignored or twisted by a simple decision. We have to learn new information, form new connections, begin to think new thoughts. That takes time and support.
Consider the ramifications of this. Is it any wonder that we continue to struggle with certain behaviors after we come to Jesus? Is it a surprise that Christians interact with each other in hurtful ways—based on feelings? Coming to Jesus brings salvation. Walking with Jesus through life teaches us a new way to think and brings us new feelings.
Read this article and meet me back here. I will be interested to see what you think and, of course, I will share my thoughts.